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Report of 

he Royal Commission on 
Violence in the 
Communications Industry 


Violence in 
Print and Music 









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Report of 

The Royal Commission on 
Violence in the 
Communications Industry 


Violence in 
Print and Music 

Published by 

The Royal Commission on Violence 

in the Communications Industry 

Printed by 

J. C. Thatcher, 

Queen's Printer for Ontario 

Available from the 

Publications Centre 

Ministry of Government Services 

Queen's Park 

Toronto, Ontario 


Ontario Government Book Store 

800 Bay Street 

Toronto, Ontario 

The Roval Commission on Violence in the 
Communications Industry was established by Order in 
Council in May 1975 and published an Interim Report 
in January 1976. It held hearings throughout the 
Province of Ontario from October 1975 to May 1976. 

A selection of public briefs, reports of foreign 
consultations and the conclusions and 
recommendations of The Royal Commission on 
Violence in the Communications Industry are 
published in Volume I. which is available in French 
and in English. 

The Commission's Bibliography comprises Volume II. 

Twenty-eight independent studies of the media were 
undertaken for The Commission and are contained in 
Volumes III to VII. 


OrJer-in-Council approved hv Her Honour the Lieutenant 
Governor, dated the 7 th day of May, AD. 1975. 

Upon the recommendation of the Honourable the Premier, the 
Committee in Council advise that pursuant to the provisions of The 
Public Inquiries Act, 1971, S.O. 1971, Chapter 49, a Commission be 
issued appointing 

The Honourable Julia Verlyn LaMarsh, p.c, QC., ll.d.. 
Judge Lucien Arthur Beaulieu, and 
Scott Alexander Young, 

and naming the said Julia Verlyn LaMarsh as Chairman thereof, to 
study the possible harm to the public interest of the increasing 
exploitation of violence in the communications industry; and that the 
Commission be empowered and instructed: 

1. to study the effects on society of the increasing exhibition of 
violence in the communications industry; 

2. to determine if there is any connection or a cause and effect 
relationship between this phenomenon and the incidence of violent 
crime in society; 

3. to hold public hearings to enable groups and organizations, 
individual citizens and representatives of the industry to make known 
their views on the subject; 

4. to make appropriate recommendations, if warranted, on any 
measures that should be taken by the Government of Ontario, by 
other levels of Government, by the general public and by the 

The Committee further advise that pursuant to the said Public 
Inquiries Act, the said Commissioners shall have the power of 
summoning any person and requiring such person to give evidence on 
oath and to produce such documents and things as the Commissioners 
deem requisite for the full investigation of the matters to be 

And the Committee further advise that all Government ministries, 
boards, agencies and committees shall assist, to the fullest extent, the 
said Commissioners who, in order to carry out their duties and 
functions, shall have the power and authority to engage such staff, 
secretarial and otherwise, and technical advisers as they deem proper, 
at rates of remuneration and reimbursement to be approved by the 
Management Board of Cabinet. 

Digitized by tine Internet Archive 

in 2010 witii funding from 

Tine Law Foundation of Ontario & tine Ontario Council of University Libraries 

The Royal Commission 
on Violence in the 
Communications Industry 

J. V. LaMarsh, Chairman 

L. A. Beaulieu, Commissioner 

Scott A. Young, Commissioner 


Anne Cameron, Director 

Jeanne Langford* 
Flora McAfee 
Frances Kieran 
C. Watson-White* 
Robert Wright* 

Public Participation 

Sheila Kieran, Director 

Lynda Douglas** 
Louise Rabin 
Patricia Robinson* 
Marcia Topp** 


C. K. Marchant, Director 

Barbara Leonard. Senior Research Associate 

Gail Corbett 
David Johnson 
Carol Newall** 
Timm Zemanek 
Corinne Korzen* 
Valerie Clare 
Kathleen D'Souza** 
Linda Gaylard 
Penny Nettlefold 
Kelvin Pearcey 


Contents of Volumes 

* 1 Approaches, Conclusions and Recommendations 

The Approaches 

The Research 

Letting the People Speak 

The Conclusions 

The Recommendations 

Selections from the Briefs 

Summary of Surveys 

A List of Participants 

Foreign Consultations 

International Agencies 

Chart: Elements in Television, Film and the Press 

in 16 Countries 

Descriptions of Television, Film and the Press in 

16 Countries 

Research Organizations 

Chronology of Research, Studies and Policies 

Related to the Communications Industry 

2 Violence and the Media: A Bibliography 

3 Violence in Television, Films and News 

A Content Analysis of Entertainment 

Television Programming— T.M. Williams, M. 

Zabrack, L. Joy 

Television Crime Drama: A Mythological 

Interpretation —J. Taylor 

Images of Different Worlds: An Analysis of 

English-and-French-language Television— 

A.H. Caron (in French and English) 

A Content Analysis of Feature Films— J. Linton 

and G. Jowett 

Content Analysis of the News Media: 

Newspapers and Television— D. Gordon and B. 


Content Analysis of the News Media: 

Radio— D. Gordon and L. Ibson 

4 Violence in Print and Music 

The Control of Mass Entertainment Media in 

Canada, the United States and Great Britain: 

Historical Surveys— G. Jowett, P. Reath and 

M. Schouten 

Speaking the Unspeakable: Violence in the 

Literature of Our Time-R. Fulford 

Violence in Literature for Children and Young 

Adults-Claire England 

Magazines and Violence— E. Beattie 

Violence and Popular Music— P. Goddard 

5 Learning from the Media 

Television Violence Effects: Issues and 

Evidence— R. Goranson 

Television and Pro-Social Behaviour— 

P. Rushton 

Replications of Media Violence— P. Stanley and 

B. Riera 

Studies of Television and Youth Sports— 

A. McCabe and D. Moriarty 

The News Media and Perceptions of 

Violence— A. Doob and G. Macdonald 

Collective Conflict, Violence and the 

Media— R. Jackson, M. Kelly and T. Mitchell 

6 Vulnerability to Media Effects 

Effects of Television on Children and Youth: A 

Development Approach— G. Fonts 

Television and the Family as Agents for 

Socialization— F. Rainsberry 

Violence, the Media and Mental Disorder— 

J. Renner 

InstitutionaUzed Populations' Views on 

Violence and the Media— J. Renner 

Viewers' Perceptions of Selected Television 

Programs— E. Tate 

7 The Media Industries: From Here to Where? 

A Descriptive Study of Perceptions and 

Attitudes among Journahsts in Ontario— 

A.M. Osier 

An Analysis of Some News-flow Patterns and 

Influences in Ontario— A.M. Osier 

Economic Determinants of Violence in 

Television and Motion Pictures and the 

Implications of Newer Technologies— 

H. Edmunds and J. Strick 

Future Mass Media— G. Thompson 

Alternatives for Canadian Television— 

S. Griffiths (in English and French) 

Constitutional Jurisdiction over Violence in the 

Mass Media Industries— P. Hogg 

*Ce volume est public egalemeni enfranfais. 

Contents of Volume Four 

The Control of Mass Entertainment 
Media in Canada, The United States 
and Great Britain: Historical Surveys 
by Garth S. Jowett, Penny Reath and 
Monica Schouten 1 

Speaking the Unspeakable: Violence 
in the Literature of Our Time 
by Robert Fulford 105 

Violence in Literature for Children 

and Young Adults 

by Claire England 1 1 5 

Magazines and Violence 
by Earle Beat tie 1 6 1 

Violence and Popular Music 
by Peter Goddard 223 

The Control of i 

Mass Entertainment 
Media in Canada, 
the United States and 
Great Britain: 
Historical Surveys 

Garth S. Jowett, Ph.D. 
Penny Reath, B.A. 
Monica Schouten, B.A. 

The Centre for Canadian Communication Studies 
University of Windsor 
Windsor, Ontario 


Preface Page 3 

Chapter 1 The Control of Popular Literature 4 

2 Guarding the Public Morality 11 

3 The Victorian Period: The Rise of Violent Literature 18 

4 Popular Literature in America 25 

5 A Brief History of Canadian Publications 37 

6 The Control of Radio 46 

7 Comics: The Exception of Press Censorship 65 

8 Social Control of the Motion Picture 75 

Endnotes 88 

Bibliography 99 


This study was undertaken in order to provide some 
historical background to the work of the Royal 
Commission on Violence in the Communications 
Industry. The study is intended to be a quick historical 
overview of the problems encountered in the past when 
societies have attempted, for a variety of reasons, to 
control the nature and content of mass entertainment. It 
should be noted at the outset that our examination of 
this historical problem was not limited merely to the 
subject of "violence." In fact, "violence" as a specifi- 
cally articulated problem was very rare before the 
twentieth century. While one can find the occasional 
reference to the problem of violence, usually this was 
associated with a plethora of other dangers supposedly 
inherent in the mass entertainment media. Only in the 
twentieth century, with the introduction of more far- 
reaching "mass media," do we find society's attention 
focused on the problem of "violence" as a staple ingre- 
dient of mass media content. Thus this study is of 
necessity wide-ranging, both in its historical dimension, 
and in the examination of the various responses to mass 
entertainment media. 

Also this study is not intended to be solely an exami- 
nation of "censorship," although the legal prohibition 
and control of the media falls within its scope. 
Throughout history societies have found ways and 
means of "controlling" the nature and influence of 
entertainment without necessarily having to resort to 
legal forms of censorship. Thus at various times the 
introduction of countervailing influences or entertain- 
ments, or the imposition of specific taxes, or even the 
creation of boards of "self-regulation" by the entrepre- 
neurs of mass entertainment, have all been successful as 
aspects of social control. 

The key questions we have addressed are those 
associated with the supposed power of the various 
media to "influence" those individuals who are exposed 
to them. Thus we have tried to deal with the initial 
responses and reactions to the introduction of new 
media (entertainment) forms, and the ways in which 
society, or sometimes that group who proclaim 
themselves "the guardians of the culture," have 
attempted to control this influence. The study describes 
the rhetoric of many of these claims, but again this was 
not intended to be an in-depth evaluation of the 
scientific validity of what people have claimed for the 
media in the name of social control. 

It should also be noted that we have tried in this 
study to be as objective as possible in our evaluation of 
the history of social control of the media. Unfortu- 
nately, this is an issue that is highly volatile, and 
occasionally our biases may show through. Neverthe- 
less, this study is not intended in any way to make a 
primary case for or against certain types of media 
control. As a historical study it is intended to act as a 

guide to what has been tried, with varying degrees of 
success or failure, in the past. 

The four media we have selected for examination - 
literature, radio, motion pictures, and comic books - 
have all been subjected to similar treatment as various 
societies have sought ways and means to control their 
influence, and to find a proper social and cultural niche 
wherein they might be accommodated. We have delib- 
erately not examined television in this study for several 
reasons. First, the structure of the television industry 
grew out of that already established by radio, and 
television very quickly adopted certain codes of self-reg- 
ulation which it borrowed from the other media, in 
particular radio. Thus, there was not the same initial 
struggle to establish legal mechanisms to control 
content. Second, the questions that have now emerged 
regarding television's role and influence in modern 
society would have been simply too large for anything 
but the most cursory coverage in this report. Third, 
although television has been widely available for nearly 
thirty years, we are no nearer arriving at a consensus 
about the proper methods of its control than we were 
when it was first introduced. In essence, we are deahng 
with a "massive" medium, which is still viewed in the 
privacy of the individual home, and therefore subject to 
individual values and norms, but nonetheless, the 
product of highly complex centralized organizations. 
This paradoxical problem of a "national" medium 
which is consumed "locally" has been a perpetual 
difficulty throughout the history of mass entertainment. 
Television has now carried the problem far beyond any 
hope of a totally satisfactory resolution. 

Where possible we have used Canadian examples, 
but, as in so many other aspects of communication 
studies in Canada, there is not a large, useful legacy of 
material dealing with these issues in specific Canadian 
terms. Nevertheless, it can be safely assumed that much 
of the rhetoric cited in this study was universal, and was 
uttered as much in Canada as in other countries. 

While all three authors participated in the final form 
of the study. Professor Garth Jowett was the principal 
researcher, and was responsible for the section on 
motion pictures; Penny Reath was responsible for the 
chapters on literature and comic books: and Monica 
Schouten was responsible for the section on radio. We 
would like to thank Mr. C. K. Marchant. the Director of 
Research of the Royal Commission on Violence in the 
Communications Industry, for his patience and under- 
standing, and Mr. Don Sims and Mr. George Belcher of 
the Ontario Theatres Branch for their cooperation. 

Chapter One 

The Control of Popular Literature 

Popular Literature: The Contradiction of Censorship 

It was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century 
that legal attempts were made to control violence in the 
content of popular literature. Victorian middle-class 
critics had expressed concern several decades earlier 
that violent content of the "Penny Dreadful" press was 
a primary cause of juvenile dehnquency and corruption. 
Violence has always been a staple of popular literature 
since the earliest days of printing, and was deeply 
infused in the legends and folk tales of the oral tradition 
which had preceded. It is a historical fact that audiences 
for popular culture seem to possess an insatiable 
demand for real or fictitious news of disasters, murders, 
criminal activities, battlefront accounts, scandalous 
gossip, and monstrous births. The ready market for 
such violent material was bound to be exploited for 
financial gain, particularly when other forms of content, 
such as politics, were legally censored. By examining the 
relationship between censorship, politics, and popular 
culture we can see the emergence of distinctive patterns 
of social control. 

Sixteenth century "corantos"' were forced to rely on 
sensational and often violent news, and stories with no 
political ramifications, since authorities censored 
controversial political news from abroad and most 
domestic news. Thus, Jemmy Catnach's trade in 
broadside ballads and chapbooks dealing with 
murderers' activities and the last dying words of 
notorious criminals flourished at a time (1813-1838) 
when sedition and blasphemy were extremely 
dangerous. Again, penny newspapers, dubbed the 
"Penny Dreadfuls", which dominated the nineteenth 
century after 1830, thrived by concentrating on violent 
and sensational criminal tales while "obscene," 
"pornographic," or "indecent" literature was vigorously 
censored. Although concern is currently increasing over 
the possible deleterious effects violent content of 
popular culture forms may have on its audience, histori- 
cally the primary target of literary censorship has been 
that which is considered "obscene." Seldom has 
"violence" as a specific issue been of concern. TTiis is 
clearly a predominant issue of the twentieth century. 

This pattern has been recognized by several critics of 

censorship practices who have, in turn, offered similar 
interpretations. Writing in 1949, the American scholar 
Gershon Legman concluded: 

Both love and violence are part of one category termed 
"thrills" . . . where sex is censored, the substitute is sadism, the 
literary lynch and increased violence. . . . The popularity of 
violence is due to the fact that it is the only outlet for fears and 
inadequacies that is socially acceptable and still open to us. 
Our literature, as a result, is empty of sex but reeking with 
sadism. . . . Violence and death have saved us from sex.^ 

Legman's analysis deals with the current status of 
censorship legislation. Morris Ernst and William Seagle 
also recognized a pattern of censorship that has 
emerged from the beginning of time: 

The yearning for a fuller life has always been thwarted by the 
censor. We may speculate that eating and hunger in the early 
days of the race were the front trenches of suppression. As man 
attained the right to all foods, the taboo shifted to religion. To 
prevent fresh views on spiritual matters libraries were 
destroyed and thousands of Brunos burned at the stake. 
Furthermore the regimentation of people could not continue if 
free thought on matters of state was permitted. To whisper 
about the King became sedition. The censor's ax swung with 
violence. Food, religion, the state - , then sex. What next?^ 

Writing in 1929, Ernst and Seagle may not have been 
able to decipher a trend that is becoming evident in 
1976. Now, of course, we can answer their question - 

Not only does an evolutionary pattern emerge in the 
type of content that is censored at a particular moment 
in history, but the means by which censorship becomes 
legally instituted evolved in a similar fashion at different 

Censorship is not democratic. This historical fact 
became apparent as literacy increased and mass circu- 
lation of popular literature became possible. It has 
always been the case that at least a small group of 
people were privileged to read literature which may 
have been forbidden to the rest of its contemporaries. In 
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, if one's 
education included Latin, the most obscene passages of 
English translations of Latin classics were decipherable. 
In England, Privy Councillors and those given 

permission by the bishops were allowed to import and 
peruse seditious literature that, in the possession of the 
common man, was a capital offence. Even in 1967, the 
Daily Telegraph reported that the British Home Office 
set up a library of books, all of which had been success- 
fully prosecuted for obscenity, for exclusive study by 
Members of Parliament.'* 

Low prices and general availability are also an 
integral part of censorship. Cheap reprints are held to 
be more dangerous than deluxe editions. When cheap 
prices were combined with general literacy, making 
mass circulation of questionable literature possible, self- 
appointed "Guardians of Public Morals" began to 
express a paternalistic concern for children, the poor, or 
minorities who lacked the sophistication of the rich and 
mature, and were therefore more susceptible to 

Very seldom was censorship ever requested by the 
audiences for popular culture. Rather, as a particular 
form of popular culture became widespread, concerned 
critics formed volunteer organizations to counteract its 
"evil" influences by one or more methods, by initiating 
prosecution procedures, pressing for censorship legisla- 
tion, focusing public opinion, or producing an alter- 
native form of attraction. 

Organizations of this nature have roots as far back as 
1692 in the Society for the Reformation of Manners in 
England, and successively emerge with greater 
frequency and impact on both sides of the Atlantic. 
When such groups successfully mobilized popular 
opinion, legal forms of censorship were likely to follow. 
This trend is apparent in the evolution of obscenity 
censorship in both Britain and North America. 

As we trace the evolution of attempts to control the 
content of popular culture, the contradiction which 
Gershon Legman notes becomes apparent: 

The result is a schizophrenic law: . . . sex, which is legal in fact, 
is a crime on paper; while murder - a crime in fact - is, on 
paper, the best seller of all time.* 

Transition From an Oral Tradition: The Growth of 
Popular Literature 

Before the introduction of the printing press to England 
in 1476, the book trade was principally concerned with 
satisfying the needs of scholars. Production and distri- 
bution of books was centred in the monasteries and 
extended after 11 90 to include the universities. Even at 
this early date all books were subject to censorship by 
the Chancellor in order to filter out the possibility of 
heretical statements. 

Writers of a more popular and secular literature were 
usually commissioned by wealthy patrons to write such 
books. Most of these authors had only local reputations, 
wrote for a limited audience, and were restricted in their 
endeavours by the individual specifications laid down 
by the patron who in return provided financial support. 
The majority of the population, financially unable to 
commission books, relied on an oral tradition of folk 

tales and ballads that were passed on between genera- 
tions by word of mouth. Wandering minstrels, poets, 
and troubadours were the popular sources of news, 
political and social rumours, songs, stories, and 

Tales from all over the world, primarily myths of 
supernatural beings and the exploits of exceptionally 
heroic men, accurately preserved by means of 
mnemonic rhythm and symbolic movement, were 
infused into a rich oral folk culture. The essence of these 
familiar plots have been described as follows: 

. . . conflicting adults, fatal children, slram between parents 
and offspring, tensions between fathers and sons or mothers 
and daughters, the wicked step-mother and neglected 
daughter, the cruel father and younger son. Love, hate, and 
guilt bring in their train murder and panic, with the dead 
returning to plague or devour the living. And always there are 
the friendly talking animals and birds, who warn men against 
love, against gold and silver, against certain (poisonous] plants.^ 

Ballads were extremely popular and sung all over 
Europe and Asia. 

They tell of the girl who followed her 'fause luve', of 'fause Sir 
John', of the talking 'wee birdie', of the dangers of the 'red 
goud' and the 'seller'; they tell of the ghastly crimes to the 
'childe' who is drowned or smothered or stabbed and who 
always seems to be blessed or threatened with 'gouden locks'. 
Beware the red goud danger. The ballads had refrains not 
unlike those to be heard in the traditional games of children.* 

There were no legal and few formal attempts to censor 
ballad-singing and story-telling. Children were not 
forbidden to hear unsuitable stories and, since there 
were few stories specifically designed for them, children 
were exposed primarily to tales meant for adults. A 
natural form of censorship emerged. Raconteurs were 
restricted informally by an audience that insisted upon 
reasonable credibility in all stories. Story-telling was 
regarded as an art in which the "extremes of horror and 
beauty were preserved from wanton cruelty and sickly 

Yet, occasionally, even before print, the telling of 
tales was considered dangerous by legal authorities. As 
early as the sixth century the monarchy and the Church 
attempted, though unsuccessfully, to suppress Welsh 
Bards. Their tale-telling incited the common people to 
such a high pitch, that the authorities considered them 
capable of inciting rebellion. '° It was this, and other 
similar events, which caused itinerant minstrels and 
poets to become increasingly known as rogues, 
vagabonds, and vagrants, and categorized among the 
unruly elements of society. 

Not until the eleventh centun,- did monasteries begm 
to make written copies of some of the most popular of 
the secular tales. From the eleventh to the thirteenth 
century poets created epics out of the numerous and 
varied tales clustering around a single legendarv 
character such as Charlemagne or Alexander, and 
myths centring on beings like Siegfried. Arthur and 

Rustum. Firdusi (932-1020) was the earliest of such 
poets, spending twenty years to consolidate all the 
Persian tales of Rustum into a single epic poem 
(completed in 1010) describing a hero who lived several 
centuries, fought demons and dragons for days on end, 
and was finally slain only by treachery after unwittingly 
killing his own son. This legend is now known through 
Matthew Arnold's poem "Sohrab and Rustum."" 

During the first century of printing, books continued 
to remain in the hands of the Church, noblemen, 
scholars, wealthy merchants, and gentlemen with 
private libraries. Records of collections in large private 
libraries indicate that they were almost entirely of a 
serious nature. However, a significant proportion of the 
annual literary output during the sixteenth century 
consisted of ballads, romances, and tales of highway 
robbery and gambling which combined with music and 
drama to form the entertainment of the lower-class 
majority. With the transition from an oral to a print 
culture, popular tales and ballads originating in an oral 
folk culture remained the most popular forms of enter- 
tainment and news. 

The First Two Centuries of Printing 1476-1695 

William Caxton established the first printing press in 
England in 1476, and by 1485 Henry VII had asserted 
his authority over the press by appointing a "stationer 
to the king" and establishing a system of patents and 
monopolies to be granted printers by the crown. 

The period from 1485 to 1695 represents a distinct 
period of literary censorship in England in which 
authority over, and control of, the press was considered 
a royal prerogative. Control of the press rapidly 
increased until its climax under Elizabeth Tudor and 
then gradually began to wane. It was a period charac- 
terized by pre-censorship, and all manuscripts were 
submitted to censors before publication, primarily to 
suppress heretical and seditious literature. 

Concern over publications of a questionable morality 
appeared in the latter seventeenth century and prosecu- 
tions for obscene and lascivious books and pamphlets 
increased. Penalties for the publication of "immoral" 
literature were small monetary fines, insignificant 
compared to a combination of flogging, mutilation, 
heavy fines and imprisonment, or even execution, 
inflicted upon those guilty of .sedition or heresy. 

Despite severe penalties and determined efforts of the 
authorities, control of the press was often ineflfectual 
and the illegal press continued to flourish alongside the 
licensed press. 

The Early Chapbool^ and Broadside Trade 

When Caxton set up his press in England in 1476 he did 
little to form the taste of the age. He did not confront 
the well-established foreign competition in the classics, 
but devoted himself to satisfying the surest home 
market in romantic literature based on the legends of an 
oral culture that were already popular. His most famous 

popular works include The Canterbury Tales, Morte 
d' Arthur, Aesop's Fables, Reynard the Fox, and The 
Golden Legend. These were assured success by rich 
patrons who displayed greater interest in vernacular 
literature as the English language improved and gained 
greater acceptance. 

Caxton's successor, Wynkyn de Worde, followed the 
tradition of neglecting the legal, political, and learned 
book trade that had been granted patents by the crown. 
He confined his attention to a lighter more ephemeral 
kind of cheap booklet or pamphlet to satisfy the 
growing demands of the general public. Rather than 
relying upon rich patrons for financial support, de 
Worde was confident in his abihty to assess the popular 
demands of his audience, and in his case, revenues from 
a wide circulation of his product replaced the need for 
wealthy patronage. 

Extremely popular at this time were "broadsides" and 
"chapbooks." Broadsides were single sheets of paper 
printed on one side only and broadsheets were large 
uncut sheets of paper printed on both sides or a 
pamphlet formed from this sheet. Chapbooks consisted 
of a single sheet folded into a small booklet of eight to 
thirty-two pages. Most of these publications contained 
woodcut illustrations and sold at either a halfpenny or a 

Broadside proclamations were official notices of new 
laws, intrigues, battles, and peace treaties. They were 
fixed to posts and doors or their news was cried out on 
the streets. The typical content of broadsides and 
broadsheets often consisted of ballads. Some ballads 
summarized the whole story in a single subtitle of a 
sensational nature. The range of subjects included 
religious, political, criminal, romantic, superstitious, 
moralistic, tragic, bawdy, and amatory material. There 
was execution news, often in prose; and the "ghost- 
written" confessions of criminals sold in the streets at 
the time and place of execution. Many were simply 
reprinted traditional folk ballads, but others were more 
topical. During the Stuart period, such broadside 
ballads formed a spearhead of protest movements in the 
conflict between "Roundheads and Cavaliers" and had 
had a similar function during the Tudor conflicts 
between Protestants and Catholics. Those dealing with 
such controversial political and religious material were 
invariably unsigned to avoid the severe penalties for 
sedition and blasphemy. 

Chapbooks began as printed folklore with woodcut 
illustrations. They had a wider .scope than ballads, 
including old romances, fairy tales, ancient battles, 
warnings to sinners urging repentance, and shorter 
versions of shilling romances such as The Canterbury 
Tales and The Seven Champions of Christendom. 

The following are typical broadside and chapbook 
titles from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries: 

The True Description of a Monstrom Chylde Borne in the He of 

Wight [1564] 

Murder Upon Murder Committed by Thomas Sherwood, Alias, 

Count rev Tom: and Elizabeth Evans, Alias, Canbrye Besse 
[163 5 J ' 

The Strange and Wonderful Storm of Hail, which Fell in London 
on the 18th of May 1680 

The Repenting Maids Sorrowful Lamentation for the Loss of Her 
True Love that Shot Himself in Soho [1698] 

A New Song on the Birth of The Prince of Wales, Who Was Born 
on Tuesday, November 9th, 1841 

Lamentation and Confession of J. R. Jeffrey, Who Now Lies 
Under Sentence of Death for the Wilful Murder of His Little Boy 

There was a brisk trade in such reading matter for the 
masses, and more and more "hole-in-the-wall" printers 
sprang up in country towns to supply hawkers with 
wares which they sold throughout the countryside and 
at country fairs. 

In the new age of print broadsides, broadsheets and 
chapbooks became the new carriers of tradition, while 
the streets and roads became the libraries and 
bookshops of the masses. Ballad sheets were posted on 
the walls of inns and cottages, or were sold from stalls in 
churchyards or marketplaces, hawked by pedlars and 
cried by "patterers." This material continued and 
enlarged upon the fading oral tradition. 

Legal Censorship to 1640 

Henry VIII rapidly increased royal control over the 
press. In 1538 a Decree of the Star Chamber forbade the 
publication of any book in English: 

onles upon examination made by some of his grace's privie 
counsayle, or other suche as his highness shall appoynte, they 
shall lycense so to do." 

Censorship was put into the hands of the Privy Council 
who looked for hidden sedition in even the most 
innocent publications. 

Under Mary, the Stationers Company was incorpo- 
rated in 1557, and everyone engaged in the book trade 
was compelled to belong to this company of Stationers. 
The book trade was made its own censor by investing 
the company with the power and obligation to censor 
all books before publication, and by empowering the 
Master and Wardens of the Company to search out and 
destroy unlicensed publications and presses. 

Elizabeth sought to make the licensing system more 
efficient. The power of the Stationers Company to 
regulate the trade of books was confirmed, but at the 
same time a definitive list of those empowered to license 
books was established. All publications, including 
ballads and broadsides, were to be registered in the 
Stationers' Register by date, name of publication, and 
author's name. Pro-Catholic and Puritan literature were 
considered the biggest threat and a series of proclama- 
tions were issued to suppress such literature. In 1586 the 
Star Chamber limited all printing to Oxford, 
Cambridge, and London, where it could be easily super- 
vised; and only by special permission were new presses 

to be set up. These severe restrictions remained m force 
until the court was abolished in 1 64 1 . 

The Tudor policy of strict control over the press was 
thought to maintain the safety of the state. Sovereigns 
acted on the principle that the peace of the realm 
demanded the suppression of all dissenting opinion and 
that only the Crown, by exercising its prerogative, was 
capable of controlling the press. There was little 
opposition from parliament, publishers, printers, or 
public opinion to this repressive legislation. 

The dangers of popular literature were recognized as 
early as 1543 when an Act "for the Advancement of 
True Religion and for the Abolishment of the 
Contrary" was specifically directed at the broadside 
trade. It claimed that 

froward and malicious minds intending to subvert the true 
exposition of scripture, have taken upon them, by printing 
ballads, rhymes, etc. subtilly and craftilly to instruct his 
highness people, and specially the youth of this realm untruly.'^ 

The comprehensive system of press regulation that had 
evolved by the end of the Tudor period was primarily 
concerned with stamping out sedition and blasphemy. It 
was to this end that the Stuarts inherited, extended, and 
modified the regulatory machinery. Charles I extended 
the number of authorized licensers to deal with the 
growing book trade and extended censorship to all 
imported books. 

During the seventeenth century absolute control over 
the publication of news was vested in the crown. It was 
the King's prerogative to "Prohibit the printing of all 
newsbooks [called corantos] and pamphlets of news 
whatsoever not licensed by his majesty's authority as 
tending to breach the peace and disturbance of the 

Despite these restrictions, many corantos were 
published in the Netherlands and imported to England, 
or the King's prerogative was ignored and "lavish and 
licentious talking in matters of state" continued to be 
published at home. Thomas Archer was imprisoned for 
the publication of a newsbook in England and his press 
was confiscated in 1621. Later that year. Nicholas 
Bourne and Nathaniel Butter were permitted to print 
the first "coranto" published "by authority" on the 
condition that the contents of each issue were first 
examined by the Privy Council. Butter and Bourne 
enjoyed a monopoly on news publication until 1632. 
They were restricted to foreign news and forbidden to 
print controversial discussions of war and politics. 
Unlicensed newsbooks continued to appear, however.'* 
In 1632 the Butter and Bourne monopoly was cancelled 
and was not restored until 1638, with censorship still a 

Quite clearly the fear of the wide dissemination of 
damaging pubhc opinion was the prime motivation 
behind the establishment of the royal right to control 
news. For the most part, however, licensing was 
inefficient: and when newspapers were successfully 

suppressed other vehicles such as news ballads filled the 

The Earliest Newspapers: Newsbooks and Corantos 

Under the Tudors, no domestic news was allowed to be 
printed in corantos, and even descriptions of news 
abroad were risky. The Stuarts intermittently allowed 
foreign news, but domestic news could not be printed 
on a regular basis until 1741. Nevertheless, news was an 
important public demand, and restrictions on 
newspapers led to the provision of news in the form of 
fiction. News dealing with murders, fires, monstrous 
births, and other sensational topics was usually safe 
from prosecution, and accounts of these events were 
vividly described in ballad form. Entries in the 
Stationer's Register show that this type of news 
outnumbered all others. Whenever an incident 
promising to make good copy occurred, the subject was 
promptly registered as the subject of a news ballad. 

As an example, the John Fitz murders of 1605 were 
the topic of numerous ballads and newsbooks. The 
typical titles of three versions of this tale were: 

A Narration of the Bloody Murthers Committed by the Handes of 
Sir John Fyghtes a Knight of Devonshire. 

A Ballet Uppon the Lamentable Murthers of Sir John Fitz 
Executed Uppon Himself and Others. 

Sir John Fitz His Ghost, or the Doleful Dreams of Lusty Jack His 
Chief Associate and Companion in Mischief'^ 

Domestic tragedies of ordinary people sometimes 
appeared like the story of a soldier "cutting off" his wives 
head, by reason one called him Cuckold."'* The most 
sensational news always appeared on the front page of a 
newsbook. Widespread demand for such news was 
guaranteed, for any newspaper or broadside which 
could olTer thrills or anything that would serve as 

News Ballads dealt with topics such as: 

Trewe and Dreadfull new tydings of bloode and Brymstone 
which God hath caused to Rayne from heaven within and 
without the Cytie of Strayle Sonet, with a wonderful apparition 
scene by a citizen of the same Cytie named Hans Germer 
which mett him in the field as he was travalinge on the waie. 


The Norfolk gent his will and testament and howe he comytted 
the keepinge of his children to his owne brother who delte most 
wickedly with them and how God plagued him for it.''' 

The last ballad later became known simply as "The 
Babes in the Wood" and was an all-time favourite, even 
as late as the early nineteenth century. 

As another example of ingenuity, in 1627 Thomas 
Wakely published an extra sheet which opened up to a 
double-page spread to be inserted into the newsbook or 
sold separately to the illiterate. It was a realistic full size 
illustration of a knife with a caption that read: "the true 
portraiture of the poisoned knife both in length and 
breadth" with which a "Jesuited villain" had tried to 
assassinate the Duke of Buckingham. Wakely spun a 

circumstantial story around how it had fallen into his 
hands. ^° The story became widely popular and Wakely 
was able to sell a large number of broadsheets. 

Ballads selling at one penny also achieved a wide 
circulation. Three thousand were registered between 
1557 and 1709 but at least three times this many were 
turned out by the unhcensed press. ^' Between 1620 and 
1642 at least two hundred copies of one thousand 
diff'erent single sheets and small quarto volumes of news 
were published and distributed. In fact, these figures 
gave a very conservative estimate of news circulation.^^ 

News sheets were irregularly published and often 
documented only one event. General topics were 
foreign battles, treaties, royal domestic life, war prepa- 
rations, proclamations, the death of kings, the 
oppression of Protestants, a general's burning and 
pillaging, sea fights, invasions, shipwrecks, and criminal 

Since the English government had banned all 
domestic and controversial news except for trivial items, 
most news sheets and ballads were forced to deal in 
sensation and violence to satisfy the innate pubhc 
demand for news. This type of sensational news was 
criticized for being nonsensical by more thoughtful 
men. William Lombarde, as an example, thought that 
news books and broadsides were making the whole art 
of printing an absurdity, and suggested that a body of 
twelve men to be called the Governors of England 
should be set up and given licensing powers to check the 
flow of sensational news. The government preferred 
sensation to sedition and ignored his suggestion.^^ 

Newsbooks continued to feature "fabricated" and 
"doctored" news. The ballad form was most popular 
with the illiterate, as the printer's customers wanted to 
be entertained as well as informed. Illustrations were 
also necessary to maintain and increase sizable circula- 
tions. However, wood-blocks, used for illustration, were 
expensive and were often used repeatedly for similar 
news items. Often the "woeful lamentation" of a 
condemned man was published at the earliest moment 
possible. John Wolfe's newsbook illustration of a 
multiple hanging came from a single block which could 
be cut into parts to depict the correct number of 
criminals executed whenever this type of news came up. 
Extra copies of the illustration were printed and sold to 
the semi-literate market solely for the grisly picture of 
unsparing detail.^'' 

Many of the news publications during the inter- 
regnum (1649-1660) contained vicious attacks by 
Cavaliers and Puritans against each other rather than 
"real" news. Cromwell's suppression of newsbooks gave 
rise to the "Grub Street Pamphleteers" who, one 
commentator noted, "thank their lucky stars, and 
congratulate their own good fortune, if any sad accident 
fall out, of Fire happen in the City: and if a Witch or 
Murder be condemned to die, rather than he shall want 
a winding sheet, they'll be so charitable as to lend them 
half of theirs."" 

News during the interregnum period, delighting in the 
grotesque and sensational, furnished readers with a 
wide variety of grisly fare. Ballads dealt typically with 
such content as a woman killed by the devil, a girl and a 
brewer scalded to death, the Protestant Massacre, and, 
of course, love songs. The Licenser's moral standards 
were not high and many publications were granted 
licences simply because they avoided pohtics. 

Legal Censorship Between the Civil War and 1695 

Between 1641 and 1643 literary censorship was removed 
and the press flourished. In 1643 the English parliament 
imposed an ordinance upon printers and booksellers. 
All publications were prohibited and an elaborate 
system of search and seizure was implemented even to 
the extent of military occupation of the City of London 
in 1648. It was this order which provoked John Milton 
to write and publish Areopagilica, or Appeal for the 
Liberty of Unlicensed Printing in 1644. He expressed the 
intellectual tragedy of official censorship, "as good 
almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man 
kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who 
destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image 
of God."^^ Petitions for press liberty were ignored, by 
the end of the Commonwealth period the press was 
brought to heel. The death of Cromwell in 1658 meant 
the end of censorship and all manner of publications 
were issued openly. 

Charles II returned to power in 1660 and a new Act 
provided that books would be licensed if they contained 
nothing "contrary to good life and good manners. "^^ All 
books were to be licensed and the number of master 
printers and apprentices was reduced; the Stationers 
Company's right to search and seizure was abolished 
and given to the office of Surveyor of the Press. Roger 
L'Estrange was first appointed to this position in 1663 
and given a monopoly on news publication. This 
Licensing Act ran until 1695. 

In 1695 the House of Commons rejected the renewal 
of the Licensing Act. This was not entirely a libertarian 
move but in part a reaction against the corruption of 
censors. Those responsible for the licensing of the press 
were accused of extortion, fraud, and theft. The 
Licensing Act was described as ineffectual in silencing 
the press and tended instead to increase the popularity 
of scandalous illegal publications. Thus, after 1695, the 
press was freed from pre-censorship, and censorship 
continued under common law, and only after the item 
had been published. 

A Question of Morality 

Much of the output of the early English press was trans- 
lations of the classics. The Puritans initially encouraged 
the translation movement, hoping that the rationahstic 
element in the classics would help to overthrow the 
feudal and medieval ideals and, at the same time, 
strengthen the position of Protestantism. The Puritans 
held that whatever evil was presented in the classics was 

different from that present in the bawdy ballads and 
romances. A knowledge of vice was considered 
necessary to a complete moral education, and the 
ultimate responsibility for the use to which reading was 
put was to remain with the individual. 

Traditionalists among the clergy and scholarly 
opposed the translations. They believed that general 
access to rationalistic literature would mean the dismte- 
gration of all venerable institutions including mother- 
hood, the church, feudal economy, and dialectic 
philosophy. Proponents of the exclusive learning view 
were dubbed "Zoili." Nevertheless, Puritan patronage 
of the translation movement continued until the Zoili 
directed attention to the heathen nature of the classics. 
Thereafter the Puritans could no longer overlook their 
inherent immorality. They withdrew their patronage 
from printers of classical translations and virtually 
ended the English classic translation trade.-^* 

The Root and Branch Petition signed by 15,000 
London citizens and presented to Parliament in 1640 
contained the most explicit condemnation of the 
immorality of popular literature of the period. This 
petition was an attempt to draw attention to the evils of 
society caused by the existing government and asked 
that the government "with all its dependencies, roots 
and branches" be abolished.^^ 

Among the evils it cited was the 

swarming of lascivious, idle, and unprofitable books and 
pamphlets, playbooks and ballads; as namely Ovid's Fits of 
Love: the Parliament of Women which came out at the 
dissolving of the last parliament; Barne's poems; Parkers 
Ballads in disgrace of religion, to the increase of all vice, and 
with drawing of the people from reading studying and leammg 
the Word of God and other good books. ''' 

It further demanded that: 

... all vaine and ungodly bookes, ballads, love songs, and 
lascivious bookes, and vaine pamphlets, may be called in and 
no more such may be ever tolerated hereafter or dispersed 
either in print, or in manuscript; which vaine bookes, ballads 
and pamphlets, have taken deeper impressions upon the hearts 
of many thousands to draw them to love and delight in those 
actions of sin into which they have been seduced by reading 

The crime of obscenity was not fully recognized in 
English law until 1725; the authorities of the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries believed they had more to 
fear from blasphemy and sedition. Pressure on the 
authorities to take action against obscene or lascivious 
books increased and resulted in several prosecutions in 
the later years of the seventeenth century. The Act of 
1662 provided that books should not contain anything 
"contrary to good life and good manners." This seemed 
to provide a base for the suppression of obscene litera- 
ture, but it was vague and censorship continued to be 
haphazard and irregular in this area. 

The Puritan literary ethic insisted that reading must 
be serious and morally edifying and criticized all light 
literature along with the obscene. While support tor the 

Puritan view grew, it nonetheless often coexisted with 
an attitude that was more tolerant of, and often amused 
by, the same literature which seemed to scandalize the 
Puritans. It was the Puritan view, however, that was 
gradually incorporated into legal censorship of liter- 
ature to prevent the corruption of the King's subjects. 


There was no censorship specifically aimed at 
"violence" in literature during this period, except when 
such "violent" content was combined with seditious 
intent. Roger L'Estrange. Surveyor of the Press in 1663, 
was concerned that the unlicensed press made 
extremely healthy profits from forbidden books. He 
specifically referred to a quarto book entitled Killing No 
Murder published in Holland in 1657, and imported 
into England after the failure of a plot on Cromwell's 
life. This justification of tyrannicide could be illegally 
sold for five shillings when it was worth no more than 

Increasing concern over the supposed ability of Uter- 
ature to corrupt morals and incite people to violence 
coincided with increases in literacy. The English school 
system was well established by the seventeenth century, 
and there were schools for all classes. Public schools 
served the wealthy and free schools run by the local 
clergy existed for the poor, while grammar schools had 
been established for the rising middle class. There was 
an ample supply of such schools with low fees and with 
attendance rolls that compare favourably to those of 
today's country schools. It was from the newly educated 
middle and working classes that the bulk of adherents 
to popular fiction would emerge.^^ 


Chapter Two 

Guarding the Public Morality 

Introduction to Popular Literature 1695-1832 

The revolutionary turbulence of the period from 1695 to 
1832 was reflected in its popular literature. Most 
government attempts to censor popular literature were 
based on a fear of internal subversion and violent 
revolution that would be the end result of the revolu- 
tionary political tracts that came to dominate a consid- 
erable proportion of the broadside and chapbook trade. 

"Teaching the masses to read would lead to 
anarchy." This view was widely held by government 
officials and the upper classes. The Evangelicals and 
Methodists believed, to the contrary, that instructing 
the masses to read would instill in them the hard- 
working virtues of a Protestant ethic. To this end, a 
system of Sunday Schools was established and religious 
tracts, disguised as broadsides and chapbooks, were 
widely circulated to provide the masses with proper 
reading material and to counteract sedition and 

The increasing number of prosecutions for publishing 
obscene literature between 1695 and 1832 may be 
attributed to the instigations of voluntary societies 
which acted as "guardians of the public morality." 
These societies, along with numerous prominent citizens 
who shared their views, set the level of public tolerance. 
Public opinion thus became the primary means of 
censoring the "immoral" in literature. With the rise of 
the novel and the circulating library, this widely 
available new literary genre became the butt of most 
attacks on "immorality" in literature. 

Legal Controls over Printing 

After the Licensing Act expired in 1695, the monopoly 
of the Company of Stationers was broken, and the 
number of printers increased and trade expanded. The 
1709 Copyright Act of Queen Anne gave rights to 
authors, as opposed to printers, and also aided in 
expansion of the printing trade. Governments regarded 
the press as a threat and feared popular involvement in 
aff'airs of state. Reinstatement of prior-censorship 
methods was undesirable, but the authorities believed 
hbel and sedition to be insufficiently handled by the 

The Stamp Act of 1712 became the new and indirect 
means of press control. This Act was designed to 
discourage poHtical opposition by imposing a stamp 
duty of one penny per sheet for newspapers and two 
shillings for each sheet on one copy of each edition of a 
pamphlet that exceeded half a sheet. This "Tax on 
Knowledge" would force publications either to raise 
their prices out of the reach of usual subscribers or, 
alternatively, to accept a subsidy from the political 
group in power and maintain its price at a reasonable 
level. Threat of withdrawal of financial support usually 
brought newspapers and pamphlets into conformity 
with the political opinion of the party then in power. 
The stamp duty was raised five times until it reached 
fourpence per sheet in 1815. The primary means of 
press censorship became a combination of financial and 
political coercion, and remained thus until 1855 when 
this oppressive tax was removed. 

In addition. Parliament employed "messengers of the 
press" to search out seditious and libellous publications 
which threatened to undermine its authority. The most 
vigorous censorship was exercised against the Jacobites 
who advocated the succession of James III. the 
Pretender, after the death of Queen Anne. The height of 
this censorship followed the Jacobite invasions of 1715 
and 1745. Vigorous censorship attempts were also 
characteristic of the period from 1760 to 1832 when 
fears of pohtical revolution, inspired by revolutions in 
France and America, were paramount. 

Numerous printers, authors, and publishers were 
tried and convicted in the courts for seditious and 
blasphemous attacks on the state, and the British 
ministry frequently resorted to repressive and unconsti- 
tutional means of dealing with the press. Off^ensive 
printers were imprisoned and brought to financial ruin 
without a court trial. 

As the stamp duties increased, forcing newspaper 
prices up. newspaper reading rooms and coffee houses 
sprang up where a single copy of a new^spaper or 
pamphlet passed through twenty or more different 
hands. The government responded by demanding that 
all such meeting places must also be licensed; in 1799 
an Act was passed "for the more effectual Suppression 


of Societies established for Seditious and Treasonable 
Practices." In addition to the imposition of heavy fines 
on unlicensed libraries and reading rooms, all indoor 
and outdoor lecturing or debating places had to be 
similarly licensed. Strict registers were kept of those 
employed in the printing industry to control means of 
press production. The name and address of the printer 
were to appear on every copy of a publication. 
Infringement of this law entailed a fine of twenty 
pounds for every copy of a book issued. In thirty years 
many of the provisions of the act would be disregarded, 
but at the time of its inception the law served to quell 
fears of a French invasion to inspire revolution in 

The early years of the nineteenth century saw authors 
and publishers fined and imprisoned for denouncing 
Britain's participation in the Napoleonic wars. After the 
peace of 1815, the anti-government campaign of the 
press became more virulent, to the point of advocating 
violent actions against government ministers as a means 
for reform. The underfed, unenfranchised unemployed 
were dissatisfied with their leaders in the post-war 
economic depression. One pamphlet included an illus- 
tration entitled. "The Old Black Cock and His Dunghill 
Advisors in Jeopardy." which showed cabinet ministers, 
judges, and priests hanging from lamp posts under a 
sign that read, "Justice Triumphant."' 

In 1817 William Hone was tried for publishing 
profane and seditious parodies. As a result of his 
acquittal, charges were dropped against other publishers 
who had also issued parodies, and the government did 
not attempt another series of press prosecutions until 
1819. As a result of indignation over the "Peterloo" 
massacre of reformers, a Member of Parliament 
published a bitter address. Sir Francis Burdett was 
charged with seditious libel, tried, convicted, fined, and 
imprisoned in 1820. Many others were similarly fined, 
flogged, or incarcerated for their publication of ideas on 
socio-political reform. Between 1821 and 1834, the 
number of prosecutions for such off'ences declined as 
the government's statutory power over the press was 
gradually being eroded. Legal reform stipulated that a 
case was to be tried within twelve months of the charge 
laid; suspended prosecutions could no longer be used to 
intimidate dissident publishers. In 1825, cases of 
criminal libel would no longer be heard by "special" 
jurors chosen for their penchant for maintaining the 
political status quo. The Reform Bill of 1832 offered a 
growing freedom of the press and a new style of 
monarchy. The stamp duty was reduced to an 
ineffectual one penny per sheet in 1836 and was finally 
abolished in 1855. Political radicalism eventually died 
down, and it became increasingly evident that attempts 
at general censorship of the press were hopeless. 

Censorship throughout the period was based on the 
belief that inflammatory opinions would incite readers 
to violence and revolution, and thus undermine estab- 
lished authorities. Government concern and attempted 

control over violent content was, again, only related to 
sedition; the basic concern was with the advocacy and 
illustration of violence toward government officials. 

Important minds of the period, such as Jeremy 
Bentham and Samuel Coleridge, rejected the 
government's belief in the power of literature. They 
argued that it was improbable that men would be stirred 
to violence by what they read, and that literature could 
not have such a widespread general effect on the 

Obscene Literature 

The first organization to set itself up as the guardian of 
public morals was the Society for the Reformation of 
Manners founded in 1692. Its declared aim was to 
crusade for national reformation by enforcing laws 
against sabbath-breaking, profanity, drunkenness, and 
sexual immorality. It was not concerned with obscene 
literature at first because many of those for whose 
morals it feared were, in fact, illiterate. Yet, as literacy 
increased, the Society became concerned that immoral 
literature might corrupt the morals of the readers and it 
concentrated principally on initiating prosecutions 
against obscene literature. 

The first major attempt to deal with obscene liter- 
ature came in 1707. James Read and Angell Carter were 
unsuccessfully prosecuted for publishing a sequence of 
poems entitled The Fifteen Plagues of a Maiden-Head. 
The general attitude of the court toward obscene liter- 
ature was reflected in the decision of Justice Powell. 

This is for printing bawdy stuff, that reflects on no person: and 
a libel must be against some particular person or persons, or 
against the government. It is stuff not fit to be mentioned 
publicly. If there is no remedy in the Spiritual court, it does not 
follow there must be a remedy here ... It tends to the 
corruption of manners but that is not sufficient for us to 

When Edmund Curll was tried and convicted for 
publishing the second English edition of Venus in the 
Cloister: or, the Nun in her Smock ( 1 724). the law of 
obscenity was established. Curll was convicted under a 
common law precedent which described acts tending to 
corrupt the morals of the King's subjects and that were 
against the King's peace as criminal offences.** From the 
time of Curll's conviction, the Court of the King's 
Bench was set up as the official guardian of the public 

By the time the Society for the Reformation of 
Manners ceased its activities in 1738, it had created a 
climate of moral opinion for national reformation that 
was supported by numerous authors and publishers. An 
urge for purity and moral reformation spread through 
English literature with a growing awareness that the 
newly literate lower classes, and especially women and 
children, should be protected from a fate worse than 
illiteracy; that is, from moral corruption. 

Although the government was willing to intensify the 
campaign against obscene literature, prosecutions were 


arbitrary, haphazard, and ineffectual in stamping out 
immoral books. In 1787 "A Proclamation for the 
Encouragement of Piety and Virtue, and for preventing 
and punishing Vice, Profaneness and Immorality" was 
issued. The proclamation gave precise reference to the 
need to suppress "all loose and licentious Prints, Books, 
and Publications dispensing Poison to the Minds of the 
Young and Unwary, and to punish the Publishers and 
Vendors thereof."^ This proclamation was prompted by 
William Wilberforce to give legal recognition to the 
dangers of illiteracy, and he founded The Proclamation 
Society in the same year to succeed the Society for the 
Reformation of Manners. The Proclamation Society 
was primarily concerned with the suppression of 
profane or obscene literature, and Wilberforce was 
convinced of the need for a private organization to deal 
with this type of material. 

In our free state it is perculiarly needful to obtain these ends by 
the agency of some voluntary association; for thus only can 
those moral principles be guarded, which of old were under the 
immediate protection of the government. It thus becomes to us, 
like the ancient censorship, the guardian of the religion and 
morals of the people. The Attorney-General and Secretary of 
State, who alone in our country can be thought at all to fill this 
post, are too much cramped by their political relations to 
discharge its duties with effect; yet some such official check on 
vice is absolutely needed. It is not here as with personal injury, 
which will always be suppressed by private prosecution; for 
though the mischief done by blasphemous and indecent publi- 
cations and other incentives to licentiousness be greater than 
most private wrongs, yet it is so fractional, and divided 
amongst so many thousands, that individuals can scarcely be 
expected to take up the cause of virtue.* 

The founding of the Society was followed by a wave of 
prosecutions for publishing "obscene libel." Their 
efforts were prompted by a concern with the effects 
obscene literature would have on the working class, and 
on women and children. The chances of being undone 
by the "hot-bed" of a circulating library increased as 
illiteracy no longer offered protection to the innocent 

In 1795, the Proclamation Society ceased its activi- 
ties, but was succeeded only six years later by the 
Society for the Suppression of Vice and the Encour- 
agement of Religion and Virtue. The new Society 
carried out a series of private prosecutions to suppress 
the publication of obscene books and prints. Between 
1801 and 1817 it was successful in forty prosecutions 
and drove the dealers in pornography underground. 

The Rise of the Novel and the Circulating Library 

The new literary form, the novel, was rooted in the 
oldest social custom - in the telling of folk tales and the 
singing of ballads and in the oral tradition of the narra- 
tive. Clearly, the preference of the growing reading 
public was for fiction. James Lackington made a classic 
observation in 1791 that "all ranks and degrees now 
read." While Lackington's observation was not really 
accurate, nevertheless wide circulation of reading 

material was achieved, not through universal literacy, 
but by the semi-literate gathering around someone who 
then read aloud. ^ As the number of capable readers 
increased, opposition to readmg for pleasure grew. 
Criticism also increased with the establishment of circu- 
lating libraries which facilitated a wide circulation of 
novels. Because novels continued to be three volumes m 
length and sold for at least six shillings per volume, the 
majority of potential readers could not afford to 
purchase them outright. Circulating libranes charged a 
relatively small annual fee, and allowed their 
subscribers to borrow as many books as they could 

Objections to novel reading were principally made on 
moral grounds for two reasons. First, moral judgments 
were imposed on the novel by middle-class conceptions 
of conduct and practical morality.^ Reading was 
supposed to be serious and educational, and readers 
were supposed to avoid the frivolous type of literature 
that encouraged rapid, inattentive and almost uncon- 
scious reading habits. Second, critics warned that 
reading by the lower orders was inconsistent with their 
life of manual labour, especially when reading seemed 
to be diaboHcally designed to "unsettle the stolid peace 
of mind necessary to the acceptance of a lowly status."^ 
Employers, economists, and even some of the poor 
themselves believed that 

Reading, writing and arithmetic are . . . very pernicious to the 
poor . . . Men who are to remain and end their days in a 
laborious, tiresome and painful station of life, the sooner they 
are put on it at first, the more patiently they'll submit to it ever 
after. 10 

Specific censures were launched against all aspects of 
novel reading from the actual location of reading, which 
seemed to the critics to be any place imaginable, and 
supplanting all other activity, to the speed of consuming 
novels, which seemed to support the view that no 
mental activity, knowledge, taste, or judgment was 

It seemed that a new literary "balance of power" 
favouring ease of entertainment had arrived with the 
eighteenth century. "TTie Rise of the Novel" was 
described as "Total Revolution whereby writing was 
commercialized."'' Literature was released from the 
classical critical tradition by subjecting writing to the 
laws of a laissez-faire market that catered to a new 
reading public. The result was the democratization of 
literature which could lead only to anarchy. 

Many criticisms were aimed at the dangers of the 
lower class aspiration to the leisures of their elite 
"betters": but the majority of the recruits to the new- 
reading public were, in fact, middle-class, seldom 
extending below shopkeepers and tradesmen, with the 
exception of apprentices and the huge class of domestic 
servants. There were many forms of printed material 
available to the lower class at a much cheaper price 
including ballads, chapbooks. pamphlets and newspa- 
pers. The size of the reading public for books still 


numbered only in the tens of thousands,'^ but 
opposition to the novel and its dissemination turned 
from distrust and fear of the possible influences to 
indignation and heated censure. 

Circulating libraries did their largest and most 
profitable business in novels rather than in other publi- 
cations that were considered more respectable (History, 
Biography, Travels, Poetry). In 1740 there were three 
circulating libraries in London and by 1800 there was 
an estimated 1,000 in Great Britain. The most famous of 
the circulating libraries of this period was William 
Lane's Minerva Press at 33 Leadenhall Street in 
London, it supplied the most popular and the most 
objectionable books. Lane knew his public and 
capitalized on their tastes, and Minerva became the 
symbol of cheap literature called "rubbish" or 
"ratsbane," and was the butt of much criticism. 

Such complaints were not new. The first circulating 
library in Britain was established in 1725 by Allan 
Ramsay. Only three years later it was raided by officials 
after complaints of the pernicious influence of its novels 
had stirred the magistrate to action. Ramsay found out 
about the raid and had hidden all objectionable books, 
turning the investigation into a farce. 

Minerva, a convenient epithet for contempt, was the 
chief purveyor of cheap literature from 1773 to 1820. At 
first, Lane concentrated on publishing cheap shilling 
pamphlets of catastrophic shipwrecks and accounts of 
criminal trials. After 1790 its mainstay was in popular 
novels dominated by the Gothic tradition. Its 
prospectus of 1794 stated that it was 

open to such subjects as tended to the public good. The pages 
shall never be stained with what shall injure the mind or 
corrupt the heart. They shall neither be the Instrument of 
Private Defamation or Public Injury.''* 

Circulating libraries were referred to as the "slop- 
shops" in literature or "quack shops," or "sinks"; but 
even those who coined these terms, the upper class, 
frequented the circulating libraries, although few would 
admit to it. 

Typical criticisms of the circulating library may be 
found in popular literary magazines of the period. A 
letter to the Gentleman's Magazine in 1808 demanded 
that the licensing of circulating libraries be instituted. 
The author believed that the freedom of the press led to 
the wide pernicious influence of the novel and noted 
that, while theatres were required to be licensed, they 
had fewer immoral consequences. 

How few persons are likely to be contaminated by the 
performance of an immoral play, compared to those who may 
be rendered vicious by the publication of an immoral book, 
which may be circulated throughout the entire kingdom, and 
may enter every house . . . not a vile contemptible novel, or 
romance, but what will find its way to a circulating library." 

And in The Monthly Review of 1773, circulating 
libraries were called "palaces of scandal" and their 
proprietors called "men whose business it is to puzzle 
heads and corrupt hearts." The author of the article 

warns that an Act of Parliament would soon be passed 
whereby institutions of this type would be closed and 
their owners "declared, like the players, rogues and 
vagabonds, the debauchers of morals, and the pest of 

Novels were supposed to have this immoral influence 
by setting up characters after whom women and 
children, and especially the poor, were tempted to 
model their lives. No type of character was satisfactory 
to all, but Richardson's Lovelace was the stock example 
for objectors, as Lovelace's evil qualities were 
delineated in far too much detail. Ideally, the novelist's 
duty was thought to be "to warn his reader against vice, 
without too plainly telling what it is."'^ Fielding's Tom 
Jones was also widely condemned for mingling vice and 
virtue in a fascinating character with the result of 
confusing the reader. 

For the most part, objections were to the obscenity of 
sexual immorality that abounded in novels. Little 
concern was given to the kind of eflects that Thomas 
Medwin noted regarding Percy Bysshe Shelley's 
boyhood experience with novels. Medwin and Shelley 
at the age often would resort "under the rose to a low 
circulating library [sic]" where they read tales of terror 
which were Shelley's favourite. "After supping on the 
horrors of the Minerva Press, he was subject to strange, 
and sometimes frightful dreams and was haunted by 
apparitions that bore all the resemblance of reality."'^ 

Prohibitions of literature should originate in the 
home, and parents should not let children subscribe to 
the circulating libraries. Such was the theme of Joshua 
Collins's A Practical Guide to Parents and Guardians in 
the Right Choice and Use of Books published in 1802. He 
proposed the formation of book societies which would 
include only "innocent" works of fiction founded on 
"good principles."'^ 

The novels which terrified Shelley were likely those of 
the Gothic tradition which were the most popular in the 
period 1790-1820. The best sellers at the Minerva were 
Regina Maria Roche's Children of the Abbey with the 
"spice of Gothic terror" and "scenes carefully calcu- 
lated to freeze the blood, "^° and Francis Lathom's 
twenty-three novels that "cater to the fashionable taste 
for terror with a care for detail of exciting incidents of 
murders, banditti, dungeons and thunderstorms."^' 

The prototype of the Gothic novel was Matthew 
Gregory Lewis's The Monk, published in 1796, although 
the Gothic novel dates back to Horace Walpole's The 
Castle ofOtranto in 1764. Lewis forewarned his readers 
in the preface of "extremes in loving and hating" but 
continued to give vivid descriptions of wantonness and 
sadism among monks and nuns; burial alive, the Inquis- 
ition, blood drunk from skulls, murder, death by 
haunting, incest, and all manner of inventions for the 
reader to enjoy. Even the Marquis de Sade thought The 
Monk was the best of "cev romans nouveaux."^^ 

Yet it was not the violence in these novels that was 
criticized. The Monthly Review in 1797 complained that 


the vein of obscenity made The Monk unfit for general 
circulation, and the Critical Review warned that The 
Monk would "inflame the fleshly appetites" and 
"inculcate the first rudiments of vice" and "give alarm 
to the still sleeping passions. "^^ 

"Bluebooks" or "Shilling Shockers" selling for 
sixpence, or a shilling, abridged and imitated the three- 
volume Gothic novels in the style of Lewis's The Monk, 
Walpole's The Castle ofOtranto, Clara Reeve's The Old 
English Baron and Mrs. Radcliffe's The Italian into 30 
or 70 pages to make Gothic thrills available to almost 
everyone. These chapbook-like stories were extremely 
popular, especially among adolescents. They cut out all 
boring details and capitalized on sensational events. 
The stories were set either in a Gothic castle with a 
bluebeard baron, or in a monastery or convent with its 
murderous monk. These villains seduce heroines and 
harass heroes and, although the tormentors learn 
eventually that "the wages of sin is death," the typical 
ending is where the hero grasps the corpse of the 
heroine and expires. "Bluebooks" were deeply 
concerned with giving their quota of thrills, and elegant 
engravings of the most sensational and lurid incident 
adorned the frontispiece to convince the customer that 
the story was horrid enough to invest in.^"* 

Mrs. Radcliff'e described the use of terror by novelists 
as the "dear, wild illusions of a creative mind." She 
argued that the terrible and the sublime could not be 
separated in art, and that the elevating power of the 
terrible restores a sense of mystery to life and rouses the 
dormant imagination.'^^ Yet when terror was made into 
a commodity and combined with sadism for popular 
appeal, critics were afraid that the decadence of the 
epoch would lead to the collapse of the entire civiliza- 
tion. The observation that the majority of the people 
continued to hve normal and healthy lives despite this 
"cascade of human suff'ering and disturbance" led to a 
realization that "there are more tongues cut out, more 
eyes put out, but nothing else has changed. "^^ 

Chapbooks and Broadsides 

Contrary to popular belief, the Education Act of 1870 
did not create the mass reading public, as a large 
working-class readership already existed before 1870. 
Charity schools had been in existence since the late 
seventeenth century, and by 1723 reported an 
attendance figure of 23,421.^^ Sunday Schools were 
established by Evangelicals by the mid-eighteenth 
century. Day Schools with a monitorial system began in 
the early nineteenth century along with Workhouse 
Schools and Schools of Industry provided by factory 
owners, while "Dame Schools" run by concerned 
individuals were common in the eighteenth century. 
The majority of children attended one of these if only 
for a brief time. Though not literate by our standards, 
most acquired the ability to read and provided the base 
of a much larger reading public than is generally 
thought. The ability to read was also encouraged by 

numerous handbills posted on the walls of city buildings 
and available for as little as a halfpenny. By 1851 it was 
estimated that two-thirds of the British population 
could read and there were two million children 
attending school.-** 

By the late eighteenth century there were many penny 
tracts advocating political reform, which were 
considered revolutionary in nature. Tom Paine's The 
Rights of Man was not prosecuted until 1792, when it 
appeared in cheap broadsheet form. William Cobbett, 
the most celebrated radical journalist, also wrote for the 
lower-class majority in cheap editions. It is not 
surprising therefore that parliamentary debates reflected 
concern over the "inflammatory" and "seditious" 
nature of radical literature as being the principal cause 
of rioting and violence. ^^ Attempts to control working- 
class reading were sometimes quite repressive, such as 
the 1799 Act for Stricter Control over the printing trade, 
with flogging and imprisonment meted out for infringe- 
ment; or legalistic such as The Six Acts of 1819 that 
attempted to deal with "twopenny trash"; or 
"inspirational" by use of counter-propaganda issued by 
religious societies to denounce the radical press and 
preach religion and morality. ^° In the end, these 
attempts failed to control the dissemination of cheap 
literature, but similar inspirational eff"orts by the 
Religious Tract Society and Hannah More showed 
some signs of success. 

Hannah More was an Evangelist who supported the 
work of the Proclamation Society and the Society for 
the Suppression of Vice. She was convinced that 
depraved, sinful, and idle chapbooks and broadsides 
would corrupt the lower classes, yet she fervently 
beheved in the Sunday School movement that taught 
them to read. Her Cheap Repository Tracts pubhshed 
in the 1790s were an attempt to provide suitable reading 
material for the masses and to counteract the ideas of 
the French Revolution. She adapted these tracts to 
popular taste with eye-catching titles and suggestive 
woodcuts. John Evans and John Marshall, leading 
printers in the chapbook trade, were employed to pnnt 
the tracts in exactly the same format as familiar cheap 
street literature, and to get them into the hawker's 
wares. More dwelt on the horrors of sin in an attempt to 
reform the masses and alter the content of their reading 
matter. Two million of these tracts were sold in 1795 
and formed a major part of the cottagers" libraries for 
the next thirty years. ^' 

The Religious Tract Society was founded in 1799 in 
an attempt to draw the audience away from the "vile 
publications" sold on the streets by hawkers. Their 
tracts were similar to those published by Hannah More 
and were distributed free in quantities of about 40,000 
at public executions. The Tract Society blamed 
anarchist journalists and inflammatory placards for 
inciting the turbulence of the Luddite rebellions of 
1811-1813. Evidence for this claim came from a 
confession in the 1813 York Trials where one of the 


defendants confessed he had worked in a factory where 
accounts of machine-breaking were repeatedly read.^^ 
The Tract Society and Hannah More were convinced 
that their pubHcations had prevented rioting in a 
number of instances. 

The Ecletuc Review in 1806 lauded the work of The 
Religious Tract Society in counteracting a situation 
described as follows: 

We have long lamented that the diffusion of virtue, and that 
easy circulation of knowledge has been perverted into the 
service of licentiousness.^' 

In fact, both the Tract Society and Hannah More 
regarded themselves as responsible for the safety of 
youthful and lower-class readers. 

A well-defined criminal class had come into existence 
by the early eighteenth century along with a complex 
system of dealing with crime including law courts, 
informers, and crime reporters. Theft increased remark- 
ably, and the golden age of the highwayman was 
signalled by the popularity of The Beggar's Opera in 
1728. Punishments for crimes against property became 
extremely severe and often meant execution by hanging 
or transportation and a few historians have noted that 
for many people the punishment for crime was feared 
more than the wrath of God for committing the sin. It 
was commonly held that "Hell is almost bound by 
Newgate's wall."^'' 

Public sympathies began to move toward the 
criminal, and Daniel Defoe presented his whores, 
highwaymen, shoplifters, and adventurers as normal 
people victimized by circumstances. The late years of 
the eighteenth century foreshadowed the Victorian 
fascination with murder, and the famous James 
Catnach set up his press in the infamous Seven Dials 
district of London to take advantage of the growing 
market for literature of this nature. 

Crime and violence had always been popular in 
chapbook tales and broadside news but for Catnach it 
was the mainstay of his trade from 1792 to 1841. He was 
most adept at putting out crime and scandalous stories 
at the right moment, and this was the secret of his 
success. Any dying speech or confession of a criminal 
could reach sales in the millions over a period of years. 
As an example, Catnach made £500 by selling, for one 
penny, accounts of the sensational murder of William 
Weare by John Thurtell in 1832.-^^ Catnach also made 
large profits on sales of dramatic accounts of the activ- 
ities of famous highwaymen of the early eighteenth 
century such as Dick Turpin and Jack Shepherd. All 
sensational crimes of the period were printed in great 
detail and these cheap publications were widely circu- 
lated. The murder of Ann Williams by William Jones in 
1823, the murder of Maria Marten by William Corder 
in the Red Barn in 1828, the body-snatching crimes of 
Burke and Hare in 1831, and the murder of Mrs. Brown 
by James Greenacre in 1837 were among the most 
popular. The last dying speech and confession of 
William Corder sold 1,166,000 copies.^^ 

Some sensational crimes were fabricated when 
business was slow and sold as "cocks" or "catch 
pennies." These were fictitious contrivances created to 
obtain money from the public, often consisting of 
descriptions of murders, fires, and terrible accidents 
that never happened. These fictitious narrations in verse 
or prose were sold in the streets as true accounts, while 
the hawker often changed the locale of the awful event 
to suit the tastes of the neighbourhood in which he was 
offering his delusions. 

One writer notes: "No more ghastly sight could be 
imagined than one of Jemmy's embellishments of an 
execution. "^^ Catnach had a large number of blocks to 
illustrate any number of criminals that were to be 
hanged, and among his stock of blocks were several 
well-known scenes of horrible and awful crimes to add 
to his vivid descriptions. Charles Hindley says of 

There can be little doubt that Jemmy Catnach, the great 
publisher of the Seven Dials, had his mind mostly centred 
upon the chronicling of doubtful scandals, fabulous duels 
between ladies of fashion, 'cooked' assassinations, and sudden 
deaths of eminent individuals, apocryphal elopements, real or 
catchpenny accounts of murders, impossible robberies, 
delusive suicides, dark deeds, and - though last, not least, in his 
love - public executions, vulgo 'Hanging Matches', to which 
was usually attached the all-important and necessary 
'Sorrowful Lamentations' or 'Copy of Affectionate Verses', 
which according to the established custom, the criminal 
composed in the condemned cell the night before his 
execution. '" 

Catnach and his "Grub Street" compatriots produced 
almost the whole of lower-class literature until the 
penny newspapers of the 1830s, which then carried on 
the tradition of sensational and violent crime literature 
for the masses, at the same time replacing the broadside 
and chapbook trade.^^ 


The total audience for newspapers at this time was only 
about a half a million, acknowledging that they changed 
hands twenty times in the cofi'ee houses, bars and 
reading rooms. The Stamp Tax had, in fact, raised the 
prices of most newspapers out of the reach of the 
majority of the people. 

As early as 1708 and 1711 newspapers appeared 
"made to order both for the man to whom the other 
reading of the age seemed either forbiddingly profane 
or portentously dull."'*" These were the years in which 
Joseph Addison and Richard Steele founded their 
Spectator and Taller, to provide moral reading with an 
emphasis on practical knowledge. While both Addison 
and Steele supported the idea of national reformation, 
their ideas did not circulate widely. 

Far more popular were newspapers that purveyed 
scandal at a cheap price. The most extensively read of 
these were Rambler's and Ranger's Magazines which 
gave accounts of the sexual scandals of high and low 
society, accounts of criminal prosecutions, and even 


explicit illustrations, names, and addresses of prosti- 
tutes. Eventually many of these publications were 
forced either to change their moral tone or to close 
down by the Proclamation Society.'" Again, criticisms 
were founded on the belief that obscenity and sexual 
immorality would corrupt. Marked sadism and fasci- 
nation with flagellation were not widely criticized as 
long as such violence predominated over explicit sexual 
descriptions. Once again we see that sexual licen- 
tiousness was considered far more dangerous than 
graphic descriptions of violence. 


The period of 1695-1832 was characterized by attempts 
at legal censorship of sedition in literature that was 
believed to be the source of violent mass uprisings. The 
Puritan opposition to immoral literature had widened to 
a popularly held view that all fiction not written for a 
specific moral purpose was perilous. Literature was 
capable of inspiring promiscuity, inappropriate 
ambitions, laziness, and attempts to undermine 
authority. Guardiansof public morals had succeeded in 
establishing legal means for dealing with obscenity but 
apart from seditious intent, there was no concern with 
violence in the content of fiction. 

Yet the roots of the type of fiction that would later be 
criticized for extreme and sensational violence were all 
present. The "Shilling Shockers" were the basis of the 
later detective mysteries of Poe, Bulwer, and Collins. 
Catnach's penny broadsides and chapbooks formed the 
basis of the "Penny Dreadfuls" that carried on the 
tradition of exploiting crime news. Finally, the stem 
diet that was thought appropriate for children 
contained as much violence as the later horror comics. 
Foxe's Book of Martyrs with its vivid and grisly plates 
illustrating the torture and murder of saints, Grimm's 
Fairy Tales in which people often devoured their 
fellows, and many manuals of edification and admoni- 
tion, prepared to frighten the child into "being good," 
were the basic reading materials for children. 


Chapter Three 

The Victorian Period: the Rise of Violent Literature 

The Victorian Preoccupation with Murder: 
The Background 

The nineteenth century brought with it new attitudes 
toward the treatment of crime in fiction. Throughout 
the eighteenth century, religious sermons and tracts 
were inspired by current criminal activities to give 
solemn moralizing lessons of a criminal's awful fate at 
the gallows. Murder served the moralists by carrying a 
stern message to the ungodly. Like great fires, 
epidemics, lightning strikes, and terrible storms, murder 
was a visitation of evil and a warning from God. The 
theory of officialdom that seeing criminals executed 
would frighten all spectators from evil-doing comple- 
mented the moralists' attitudes. Each year in London 
executions could be witnessed at least eight times 
outside Newgate prison. Hangings drew huge crowds 
from all classes of society, and provided an excuse for a 
day of public festivity. 

Newgale with its executions of notorious and petty 
criminals was an obtrusive theme in English life. 

. . . the punishments meant to terrify evildoers frightened the 
innocent as well. Servants told tales of the gallows, parents 
used them to caution naughty children, and the boys 
themselves sought a delicious chill from accounts of horrifying 
murders. For many, all this was enjoyment, but some - 
sensitive beyond the ordinary - carried into manhood the 
memory of their fears.' 

Samuel Romilly revealed his memories of such 
teachings and their eff"ects upon him as a child: 

The prints which I found in the lives of the martyrs and the 
Newgate Calendar, have cost me many sleepless nights. My 
dreams too were disturbed by the hideous images which 
haunted my imagination by day. I thought myself present at 
executions, murders, and scenes of blood; and I have often lain 
in bed agitated by my terrors, equally afraid of remaining 
awake in the dark, and of falling asleep to encounter the 
horrors of my dreams.^ 

The practice of moralizing upon criminal executions 
was part of a larger doctrine that held that a child was 
full of original sin at birth and his soul must be 
cleansed. Accordingly children were fed daily doses of 
religious teachings that placed a great emphasis on 
hellfire, punishments for sins, and early deathbeds, and 

such admonitions often frightened children into nervous 

Piety was not a mere Sunday garment; it was of the texture of 
the life of the folk. Nor was theology a mere system of abstruse 
theories; it was intimate and deeply personal and nobody 
could quite escape it."* 

In this vein, a large proportion of the output of the early 
press was broadside versions or chapbooks of sermons, 
catechisms, and warnings to the ungodly. This tradition 
was continued in the numerous reUgious tracts that 
were distributed among the poor well into the 
nineteenth century. (Circulations of this type of material 
were more widespread in colonial America where the 
press came directly under the supervision of Puritans 
and Quakers.) 

Ministers had sermons published in street-ballad 
form describing a "sulphurous picture of the 
hatefullness of an angry God" and the court scene of 
the Last Judgment of Revelations in vivid and terrifying 
detail. Rev. Wiggleworth's Day of Doom, first published 
in 1662 and selling 1,800 copies within the year, was one 
of the most popular of this genre. 

Its presentation had an emotional drive, a vividness of 
imagery, and a compelling narrative movement all combined 
in great effectiveness. Here were verses far more sensational 
than the ballads about murders and hangings that were sold on 
the street, and Wiggleworth's influence over generations of 
New Englanders came largely from his shocking 

These publications were best sellers in America at the 
beginning of the eighteenth century and were equally 
popular in Britain. 

Not until James Catnach and the "Penny Dreadfuls" 
after 1830 were crime and criminals sensationalized, 
made pleasurable, and disseminated in mass circulation 
doses to a newly literate public. Murder was exploited 
for pleasure and for its entertainment value. 

There had been a few examples of the popular arts 
tending toward such a lighthearted treatment of 
violence during the eighteenth century. The Beggar's 
Opera of 1728 united humour with crime and 
punishment and stimulated considerable argument 
about the tone with which such subjects should be 


treated. A clergyman, Martin Madan, was concerned 
about law enforcement and was duly agitated about the 
possible efiects of The Beggar's Opera. He believed that 
the satire in The Beggar's Opera 

... is quite lost upon the lower class people, and little of the 
piece may be supposed to remain on their minds, hut the 
mischief of it ... it is hardly to be doubted, that many a 
wretched youth . . . has been determined upon the most 
flagitious courses, from a noble ardour, which has been kindled 
in his imagination, to imitate the illustrious hero of the 
Beggar's Opera. . . . How different a performance is the George 
Barnwell of Lillo ... its hero led forth to public ignominy and 
death - exhibiting a striking lesson to all beholders and an 
awful caution against the first solicitations of vice.* 

Another such example would be Punch and Judy, which 
had an older stage history and larger and more varied 
audiences, principally composed of children, and was 
universally popular. Punch acts out representations of 
contemporary crimes and succeeds in hanging the 
hangman before he is to be executed. 

Criminal deeds, trials, and executions always 
appeared in newspapers. Newgate and the gallows were 
popular topics regularly carried in "accidents and 
offences" columns. When some aspect of the crime 
induced particular excitement, generous space was 
allotted, and accounts became broadside ballad 
material, and the criminal's biography was included in 
one of the many Newgate Calendars. 

The most popular of the Newgate Calendars was the 
five-volume Malefactor's Bloody Register, first appearing 
in 1773. Biographies of Claude Duval, Dick Turpin, and 
Jack Sheppard, notorious and universally popular eight- 
eenth-century highwaymen were staples. Later popular 
writers like William Ainsworth were inspired by the 
characters described in these calendars but for the most 
part they were too expensive to come into the 
possession of the average person. 

The Newgate theme was pervasive and inspired what 
came to be called the Newgate Novel, and also the 
"Penny Dreadfuls" and the early detective fiction 
known as the "Sensation Novel." These forms were 
extremely popular during the nineteenth century and 
created an interest in murder that was far out of 
proportion to its actual incidence.^ The tendency of this 
crime fiction to evoke sympathy for the criminal and to 
educate readers in the methods of crime was the source 
of widespread criticism. 

Legal Means of Censorship in Britain 1832-1900 

After the Chartist uprising in 1848, revolutionary 
activity died down. Prosecutions for seditious and 
blasphemous libel became rare and with less certainty 
of success. The British people in the nineteenth century 
came to accept the view that no political opinion, 
however forcibly expressed, should be regarded as 
criminal unless violence, murder, or some other breach 
of law was advocated. Since 1861 it has been illegal by 
Statute to advocate an act of murder. This Act is 

primarily a reaction to Chartist activities between 1839 
and 1850, but also included anarchists and nihilists who 
were dedicated to subversion and violence, and who 
advocated the assassination of "tyrants" everywhere.** 
Convictions for obscene libel were more easily obtained 
and increased in number while those for seditious libel 

Two views dominated discussions on press liberty. 
Absolute freedom of expression was advocated by 
some, while others advocated a political compromise, 
advocating freedom of all views except those that would 
incite men to violence. John Stuart Mill expressed the 
popular concern of many Victorians that if censorship 
by government authorities declined, censorship imposed 
by public opinion would fill the censorship vacuum. 
Informal censorship by public opinion's standards of 
good taste would become either ineffectual or 

In 1857 the Obscene Publications Act sponsored by 
Lord Campbell was passed, after much debate; it 
allowed control of the trade in pornography and 
indecent literature. The Act provided for search and 
seizure by police with warrants, and empowered magis- 
trates to grant destruction orders for all publications 
thought to be pornographic. 

Campbell explicitly stated the purpose of the Act was 
to check only those 

works written for the single purpose of corrupting the morals of 
youth, and of a nature calculated to shock the common 
feelings of decency in any well regulated mind.'° 

The law was not to interfere with literature or the arts 
but only with the explicitly pornographic products of 
Hollywell Street. 

Victorians, regarding literature as an educative agent 
capable of shaping an individual's personality and 
conduct, believed that books should be more than 
simply free from impurity; books should contribute to 
the moral improvement of their readers. Campbell's Act 
was extended to deal with all literature and not simply 
those of a pornographic nature as he had intended. All 
the "classics" were in danger of being labelled 
"obscene," including material from the Bible. Shake- 
speare, Rabelais, Boccaccio, the Restoration Drama- 
tists, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, and Richardson to Zola 
and many others." 

The "Hicklin Judgment" ruled by Justice Alexander 
Cockburn in 1868 enshrined the literary and medical 
view of pornography into law. 

The test of obscenity is whether the tendency of the matter 
charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose 
minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose 
hands a pubHcation of this sort might fall.'- 

This ruling became the guide for English and Amencan 
courts; according to this judgment a book could be 
ruled unlawful even if it only contained obscene 
passages and was not predominantly obscene. Further, 
literature must not vitiate the public morality, create 


marked feelings, or lead to unlawful practices. These 
standards were translated into law only with regard to 
seditious violence and sexual immorality. The Customs 
Consolidation Act of 1853 prohibited the importation of 
obscene books and prints, and an Act of 1884 restricted 
indecent advertising and the mailing of obscene 
materials. Most of the prosecutions for "obscenity" 
were initiated by voluntary guardians of public morals, 
and attempts to check violence in fiction as a form of 
entertainment were left wholly to such organizations, 
and were essentially ignored by the government. 

Extent of the Reading Public 

By 1830 there was a large potential reading public 
among the working class. Popular education 
movements had existed since the beginning of the eight- 
eenth century, and Forester's Education Act of 1870 
simply guaranteed that the reading public would 
continue to expand. Education was of crucial impor- 
tance to philanthropists and religious groups who 
accepted John Locke's teaching that the child was born 
with a mind that was a "clean s\ate'\tabula rasa), and 
who therefore set out to impress the right ideas upon the 

The Evangelical Movement from Robert Nelson in 
1699 to Hannah More in 1833 set up hundreds of 
charity schools throughout England and Wales. By 1750 
attendance in these schools had reached 30,000.'^ From 
the time of Wesley, Methodists provided a wide range 
of cheap literature for the poor. Robert Raikes and 
Thomas Stocks began to focus their attention on 
children who wandered about the streets on Sunday, 
and thus, began the Sunday School Movement. By 1830 
between 800,000 and 1,500,000 children were attending 
Sunday Schools.'"* The Anglican National Society was 
founded in 1811 and the Foreign School Society was 
organized in 1813. By 1833 the former was teaching 
about 1,000,000 children and the latter 70,000. '^ The 
First Mechanics' Institute was founded in 1823 and 
similar organizations were formed to help provide poor 
adults with useful knowledge. 

These organizations and societies were middle- and 
upper-class endeavours. In addition to providing 
schools, a sizable trade in religious tracts was aimed at 
saving the souls of the inferior classes. In the final 
analysis, religious tracts were not as successful in their 
attempts to inculcate wholesome, godly, and moral 
attitudes among the poor as their printers believed.'^ 
The poor often resented upper-class concern for their 
souls accompanied by neglect of such pressing needs as 
food, clothing, and sanitation. Although the tracts 
achieved huge circulations, most of them were probably 
used for lighting pipes, wrapping paper, and other 
unmentionable purposes. 

John Wesley, the pioneer of tract literature, estab- 
lished a publishing house in 1745 for the printing of 
penny booklets. The Anglican Church followed with its 
creation of the Society for the Promotion of Christian 

Knowledge in 1698 and its replacement, the Society for 
the Diffusion of Religious Knowledge in 1750. Hannah 
More and her Repository Tracts of 1794 were followed 
by the Religious Tract Society of 1799. All denomina- 
tions eventually set up their own tract societies. By 1834 
there were at least fifteen separate organizations distrib- 
uting great quantities of religious tracts among the poor. 
The Religious Tract Society issued 14,339,197 different 
tracts in 1834 and this had increased to 18,223,955 in 
1849.'^ With this circulation, the Religious Tract Society 
led all others. 

Religious tracts tended to morbidity, dwelling on 
death, corruption, and heavy moralizing. Yet attempts 
to reach the lower-class audience by appealing to their 
tastes led to increasing sensationalism, comparable in 
many ways to the methods employed by Gothic 

Religious tracts gradually disappeared and were 
succeeded by the "moral" penny press aimed, similarly, 
at counteracting the "Penny Dreadfuls" and the sensa- 
tional press which were so popular among the working 
class after the 1830's. 

The Newgate Novel 

The Newgate Novel extended over a period of about 
seventeen years, from just before the Reform Act of 
1832 to the Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1847. The 
Newgate Novel began as an instrument of protest 
against the severity of the criminal law and the structure 
of class privilege represented by that law. The writers of 
this genre, Ainsworth, Bulwer, and Dickens, proposed 
that crime was partly the creation of social injustice. 
However, these reform motives were accompanied by 
an exploitation of the general interest in crime and the 
criminal. Critics continually raised the question of 
whether writers should be socially responsible for the 
effects of their work. The Newgate Novel was quite 
often regarded as socially dangerous because it famili- 
arized readers with vice and crime. 

One of the earliest Newgate Novels was Edward 
Lytton Bulwer's Paul Clifford, published in 1 830. 
Bulwer's purposes were twofold: "First, to draw 
attention to two errors in our penal institutions viz., a 
vicious Prison-discipline and a sanguinary Criminal 
Code," and second "to show that there is nothing essen- 
tially different between vulgar and fashionable vice - 
and that the slang of one circle is but an easy 
paraphrase of the cant of the other."'* Paul Clifford was 
immediately popular. However, Fraser's Magazine 
objected to Bulwer's warped morality. "Its moral is 
reprehensible to even the extremes! degree"; its hero, 
who deserved hanging, is "made happy in the end, as 
though he had been the most virtuous of mankind." 
According to Fraser's it was wrong to incite sympathy 
for criminals.'^ 

Bulwer's next novel was the centre of much wider 
criticism. Eugene Aram had no purpose of social 
reform; its hero was an actual murderer. Bulwer tried to 


bring Aram to life as the central figure of a romance 
and attempted a psychological character-study of an 
unusual criminal mind. Aram was made attractive in 
everything, except that he remained morally guilty. In 
developing the Aram story, Bulwer united the romance 
of Gothicism with the realistic factual tradition of the 
Newgate Calendars. 

Aram was more popular than Paul Clifford hsid been. 
Again, Fraser's concluded 

... we dislike altogether this awakening sympathy with inter- 
esting criminals, and wasting sensibilities on the scaffold and 
the gaol. It is a modern, a depraved, a corrupting taste.-'" 

Fraser's believed that extraordinary crimes induced 
imitation and that a book like Bulwer's might have the 
same effect. 

William Harrison Ainsworth's Rockwood, which 
appeared in 1834, also combined the Gothic tradition 
with the lore of the Newgate Calendar. The legendary 
highwayman, Dick Turpin, was made the central 
character. Turpin had no scruples against violence when 
it was necessary, but gallantry and honour were the 
sources of his pride. Ainsworth reworked the Turpin 
legend, adding new excitements, and his version of the 
legend became as well established as the old. Some criti- 
cized Rockwood f^oT containing a low element and for its 
vulgarity, but few expressed the fear that it would lead 
young men to crime. 

Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist reflected the preva- 
lence of juvenile crime and the conditions of the 
contemporary underworld theme. It first appeared in 
January 1837 as a serial in Bentley's Miscellany. The 
book was published in three volumes in 1839. Both the 
serial and the book were extremely popular. Oliver Twist 
was classed among the Newgate Novels because of 
Dickens's fascination with crimes of violence and his 
sensational treatment of them. Dickens probes the 
psychology of the murderer, making the crime 
convincing and intimate.^' 

The Edinburgh Review praised Dickens's work. He 

. . . never endeavours to mislead our sympathies - to pervert 
plain notions of right and wrong - to make vice interesting in 
our eyes - His vicious characters are just what experience 
shows the average to be - We find no monsters of unmitigated 
and redeemable villainy, no creatures blending with their 
crimes the most incongruous and romantic virtues.^^ 

This was an obvious contrast to Bulwer's treatment of 

Ainsworth's Jack Sheppard appeared in serial parts in 
Bentley's Miscellany, beginning in January 1839. Jack 
Sheppard was a petty thief whose life story had reached 
legendary proportions owing to his several ingenious 
escapes from prison. Jack Sheppard was widely criti- 
cized primarily because this novel put foremost the 
sexual element that Dickens carefully avoided. Jack 
Sheppard was issued as a three-volume novel, and sold 
3,000 copies in the first week of publication in 1839. 

Ainsworth's novel revived a popular legend, and a 

"Jack Sheppard craze" followed, the effects of which 
were described by Thackeray. 

I have not read this latter romance [Jack Sheppard] but one or 
two extracts are good: it is acted at four theatres, and they say 
that at the Cobourg (sic) people are waitmg about the lobbies, 
selling Shepherd-bags - a bag containing a few pick-locks that 
is, a screw dnver, and iron lever, one or two young gentlemen 
have already confessed how much they were indebted to Jack 
Sheppard who gave them ideas of pocket-picking and thieving 
they never would have had but for the play. Such facts must 
greatly delight an author who aims at popularity. ^^ 

Thackeray's criticism seemed to be validated when a 
valet named Courvoisier admitted that he had killed his 
master William Russell after getting the idea by reading 
Jack Sheppard?'^ Critics immediately re-examined the 
novel and concluded that it was a book that would 
create a lust for cruelty. The Examiner added: 

... we acquit the author of having intended or foreseen the 
encouragement of cruelty, but the admiration of the criminal is 
the studied purpose of the book.-- 

One of the most vocal critics of the Newgate Novel was 
Thackeray. He insisted that virtue and vice must never 
be confused or mingled in the same character and vice 
must never be made interesting. 

Bulwer defended his motives by arguing against the 
principle that one must never incite any sympathy or 
interest in the criminal. This attitude, he said, would do 
away with Othello and Macbeth. Further, he contended 
that even criminals have some good qualities and 
defended the realism of detail. 

Debates between the merits and dangers of the 
Newgate Novel continued with eminent proponents on 
either side. However, the three-volume novel sold for at 
least 1 '/2 guineas and was well out of the reach of the 
working class. When the Salisbury Square penny serials 
appeared in the 1830s criticism became much stronger. 

The Salisbury Square School of Fiction 

Opponents of popular education seized upon the spread 
of crime and the great popularity of criminal news in 
the "Penny Dreadfuls" as evidence of "the deficiency of 
sound and religious education for the great mass of 
people most exposed to vicious influences."^* Many 
believed that the masses had an innate resistance to the 
redeeming powers of education. Their prurient appetite 
for the news was thought to be never satisfied unless 
they were absolutely glutted with crime in print. 
Newspapers were condemned for being accessories to 
murder since "murder in print breeds more murder." It 
was also suggested that the "Penny Dreadfuls" accounts 
of crime catered to the naturally evil propensities and 
suggestibility of an uneducated mind. Such attitudes 
were widespread bv 1840.-^ 

Penny newspapers first appeared in 1832, and by 
1840 there were eighty cheap periodicals circulating in 
London.'^ Many were innocuous, but crime and 
Newgate material were always popular. TTie proportion 
of crime and sensation increased in the later decades 


and was always the staple of the Salisbury School of 
Fiction. Two men dominated the trade in "Penny 
Dreadfuls"; G. W. M. Reynolds and Edward Lloyd. 

G. W. M. Reynolds was the most notorious, sensa- 
tional, and popular of writers in the later nineteenth 
century. He deliberately exploited the market for all 
manner of sexual passion, torture, and pain, and 
described them in great detail. He included livid 
descriptions of torture and cruelty, full accounts of 
guillotining, and horrible descriptions of child beating, 
all of which were based on real incidents. Reynolds's 
most popular novels, Faust, The Mysteries of the 
Inquisition, The Mysteries of London, and The Mysteries 
of the Court of London appeared in serial parts in his 
penny weeklies. Reynolds' Miscellany was the most 
popular penny magazine of the period with a circulation 
ranging from 300,000 in 1845^9 to 450,000 per week in 
1856.^^ Reynolds was a Chartist who combined extraor- 
dinary narrative with complicated action, crime, 
political radicalism, sadistic violence, and an emphasis 
on sex. 

Most of the attacks against this type of popular liter- 
ature were aimed specifically at Reynolds and his publi- 
cations. After 1847 criticism and adverse public opinion 
from the middle and upper classes became so strong 
that it seems to have made Reynolds's style more 
conventional and less colourful.^' 

Edward Lloyd began publishing a number of cheap 
periodicals in 1841. The People's Police Gazette and 
Penny Weekly Miscellany were the most popular. The 
Police Gazette gave accounts of the most lurid crimes 
accompanied by detailed and horrible illustrations. The 
sensational quality of the illustrations may be imagined 
when it is noted that Lloyd demanded that in several 
"the eyes must be larger and there must be more blood 
- much more blood!"^^ The Penny Weekly Miscellany 
included crime and mystery novels in serial parts and 
descriptions of the exploits of notorious criminals and 
highwaymen. Details of vice and tortured victims were 
meant to startle and shock. 

As Richard Altick has noted: "What Ainsworth 
brought to the drawing room audience, the hacks of 
Salisbury Square manufactured for the tenements."" 
Edward Lloyd incurred Dickens's wrath by supplying 
the penny market with imitations under the titles of 
"Oliver Twiss," "Nichelas Nicklebery," "Martin 
Guzzlewit" and the "Penny Pickwick." Dickens's plots 
could be recognized in these, but for the most part they 
were summaries stressing the most sensational aspects. 
After 1860, much of Lloyd's output was directed 
primarily toward juveniles and dealt in blood and 

Many other penny publications were condemned as 

the foulest filth of ail literary matter [in which] robbery was 
presented as merely a skillful sleight of hand, murder as 
nothing else but heroism, and seduction and prostitution as 
being anything but blameable.''' 

The London Journal, established in 1845, was the most 

popular after the publications of Lloyd and Reynolds. It 
had reached a circulation of 200,000 by 1854,^^ concen- 
trated among young men. The London Journal was 

full of adventure of wild romantic stories depicting duels and 
battles, deeds of daring, hair breadth escapes by land or sea, 
the heroes being banditti, pirates, robbers and outlaws.'* 

These were the prototypes of the "Penny Dreadfuls." 
There were many imitators, but they circulated less 
widely. In reaction to these allegedly "immoral" and 
harmful publications a "Purified Penny Press" 
attempted to provide good fiction for the masses. 
Attempts to create an attractive but morally edifying 
competitor were widespread. 

In his first issue of The Penny Weekly Miscellany, 
Lloyd claimed he would "maintain the highest majesty 
of virtue over the turbulence of vice." Reynolds insisted 
that a knowledge of vice was necessary if the path of 
virtue was to be followed. He also believed that virtue 
was always victorious over vice in his publications; but 
even though wrong-doing was ultimately punished, 
these authors made their criminals admirable and too 

In an attempt to counter the attraction to this sensa- 
tionalist literature, other types of "penny literature" 
appeared. The Religious Tract Society's Leisure Hour 
(1852) was the most popular of all religious "purified" 
periodicals. It found ways to furnish excitement and 
diversion without violating moral principles, by dealing 
in "near truth" narratives, adventure, history, and 

The Society for the Diff'usion of Useful Knowledge 
( 1 826-44) issued its Penny Magazine in 1 832. The 
Society aimed to impart useful knowledge to the masses 
and inculcate in them positive values to prevent unrest 
and crime. The Penny Magazine reached a phenomenal 
circulation of 200,000 in its early years but declined to 
just 40,000 in 1844 when it was financially forced to 
cease publication.^^ 

The Society for the Promotion of Christian 
Knowledge established The Saturday Magazine in 1833 
to awaken reason in the lower classes and lead them to 
"agreeable and innocent thoughts." The Saturday 
Magazine reached a weekly circulation of 80,000 in 1833 
but had dropped to 20,000 in 1836 and ceased 

From 1846 to 1856 numerous other religious and 
moral periodicals were established to purify the penny 
press. These emphasized domestic aff'ection and loyalty 
to church and country, and attributed all suff"erings of 
the poor to their own deficiency of positive virtues. 
They aimed at indoctrinating the poor with the virtues 
of thrift, temperance, punctuality, and religion. 

Household Words, founded by Dickens in \i5Q,John 
CasselTs Illustrated Family Paper (\S53), Eliza Cook's 
Journal (\S49), and numerous others sought to 
counteract periodicals pandering to low and criminal 
tastes. All of this species, however, failed to provide 
uncritical support for the working class, and were 


confined to practical and limited interpretations of the 
middle-class Christian ethic, and provided little 
excitement or diversion. Thus, the lower class remained 
faithful to the rousing "Penny Dreadfuls." 

Attempts to arouse public opinion against the "Penny 
Dreadfuls" began in 1847 with severe and critical 
attacks published in the literary journals and the 
"purified penny press." The first really comprehensive 
attack giving details of offences and offenders was a 
series of three articles by Hepworth Dixon printed in 
The Dailv News in 1847. The first article entitled 
"Literature of the Lower Orders" described the cheap 
penny press as vicious in its influence, and suggested 
that the staple ingredients of "theft, seduction, violence, 
adultery and murder" provided not only amusement 
but also instruction for the masses. Dixon's comments 
were not limited to cheap literature, however. 

Their looseness, warmth of colouring in the criminal scenes, 
and of the false glow cast round guilty indulgencies, are their 
bane; but, unfortunately, these qualities are hardly sufficient to 
separate them from much of the literature of the day, which 
aspires to different rank, and proposed to itself a higher kind of 
audience. ^"^ 

Dixon's articles initiated much popular discussion and 
comment in other periodicals. Reynolds and Lloyd, in 
particular, were mentioned and harshly criticized. 

With cheap periodicals in the whole of England 
having a weekly circulation of almost three minion,'*° 
and as critical comment increased, concern was 
reflected in parliamentary reports. The parliamentary 
report on Public Libraries in 1849 expressed some 
concern for the harmful consequences of cheap 
literature,'" but this discussion became a central issue in 
the 1852 House of Commons inquiry into the situation 
of Criminal and Destitute Juveniles. This inquiry noted 
that an organized criminal class existed in London 
possessing many of its own institutions from the "flash 
house" which provided free temporary lodging, to the 
"Penny theatres" and singing rooms. Periodicals and 
theatres acquainted new entrants into the underworld 
with heroes of the trade. Willing teachers gave detailed 
accounts of criminal trials and crime reports. The 
readiness to imitate others was thought to be a familiar 
trait of the criminal.''^ 

In 1850. there were a hundred different series of Jack 
Sheppard tales circulating in penny parts around 
London. Lower-class children also spent much of their 
time in penny theatres and singing rooms, singing 
ballads about, or watching dramatized versions of, the 
hves of notorious criminals.'*^ These numerous sources 
of the details of criminal activity were thought to be 
harmful because they encouraged a desire to emulate 
favourite criminal heroes. 

The Report of the Select Committee on Criminal and 
Destitute Juveniles noted the widespread influence of 
Dick Turpin and Jack Sheppard through the penny 
press and theatres. Large numbers of juvenile offenders 
were found to be familiar with these stories and many 

confessed that they had been influenced by them in 
their criminal deeds. The report concluded that some 
boys were made worse by the admiration they acquired 
for such criminals through the penny theatres and 
penny press.*^ 

Despite widespread criticism of cheap popular litera- 
ture, no legal action was taken. The uproar began to die 
down by the mid- 1 850s, and some critics even began to 
defend the penny press. Defence was based primarily 
on the observation that the love of the marvellous, 
sensational, and exciting is universal and that it is 
impossible to refine a taste inherent in the human race. 
Another argument insisted that the way in which the 
poor were having their diversion provided wasn't very 
harmful after all, since the stories of the "Penny 
Dreadfuls" were not very much like real life, and thus 
the excitement produced would only be transitory. 
Discussions seemed to end on the note expressed in The 
Saturday Review that "in this sphere of literature it is the 
readers who determine the spirit of the publication, and 
not the publication which creates the taste of readers.'"'^ 

The Sensation Novel 

J. H. S. Tompkins in his book The Popular Novel in 
England has noted: 

The Sensational has always been present in popular literature 
. . . there is a universal taste for strong scenes ... the desire to 
shock and be shocked is endemic in human nature and only 
the sophisticated feel it needs apology. Novel readers at the 
end of the 18th century relished an emotional orgy. . . . Critics 
complain through the whole period of the abuse of the 
marvellous in motive and incident . . . Rape, jealous frenzy and 
murder are the staple ingredients of these novels and the 
general method is cumulative. . . . Duels and abductions 
appeared most frequently and have their parallels in modern 
magazines and newspapers. . . . The Slaughterous innkeepers, 
corpse robbers, dungeons and ghosts are not new . . . terror is 
perennially fascinating to the human mind, we accumulate 
stock themes on which every generation draws to some extent. 
. . . The long period of sobriety preceding the late 1 8th century 
novels, revolutionary excitement, importation of Gothic 
material from Germany and the growing reading pubhc all 
contributed to the sensation novel.''* 

Between 1860 and 1862, the three most popular novels 
of the late nineteenth century appeared. Wilkie Collins's 
The Woman in While, Mrs. Henry Wood's East Lynne, 
and Miss Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's 
Secret were the beginning of a new species of fiction 
called the "sensation novel." The sensation novel of the 
1860s and 1870s was a crime novel based on murder, 
bigamy, and arson. They are the immediate prede- 
cessors of the detective novel and are themselves direct 
descendants of the Newgate and Gothic novels. 
Mystery, horror, and melodrama are staples of 
sensation novelists such as Reade. Dickens. Collins. 
Braddon. and Wood. Plots are wildly improbable wnth 
free use of mistaken identity, a young woman's persecu- 
tion, seduction by trickery, illegal incarceration, intense 
emotion, and a sense of fatality. 


The sensation novel was extremely popular. CoUins's 
The Woman in White created a fashion craze, was 
serialized in periodicals, plagiarized to some extent by 
half of the novelists in England, and adapted to the 
stage. It went through seven editions. 

Compared to the Newgate Novel, the sensation novel 
did not provoke much indignation."*^ Adverse comment 
again criticized this species of fiction according to 
already familiar criteria. These novels were thought to 
be produced by and catered to unhealthy minds; they 
could sap an individual's moral strength and cause him 
to mistake reading for real life, hold vice up for admira- 
tion, and give evidence of a Hterary disease that was 
corrupting society. 

Criticism was sharp and bitter and often satirical, but 
the "literary disease" had become an epidemic, judging 
from circulation figures. The introduction of cheap, 
one-volume novels at only six shillings, and the seriali- 
zation of "sensation fiction" in penny periodicals added 
to the genre's epidemic proportions. The railway 
newsstand and circulating libraries provided the 
Victorian public with more "sensation novels" than any 
other type of literature during the period. 

Satire and ridicule of the sort provided by Punch in 
May of 1862 formed a large proportion of critical 
comment. Punch announced in this edition that it would 
establish a Sensation Times devoted to 

narrowing the Mind, making the Flesh Creep, Causing Hair to 
Stand on End, giving Shocks to the Nervous System, 
destroying the Conventional Moralities and generally unfitting 
the Public for the Prosaic avocations of Life.*** 

Upper-class Victorian morality still feared that invoking 
sympathy for criminals would lead to widespread 
criminal activity among the masses, and still believed 
that all literature should have a reformatory purpose. 
However, the three-volume novel and the circulating 
library, which had once allowed the policing of 
Victorian literature to be comparatively simple, had 
ceased to be the primary source of popular literature. 
The circulating libraries and, most notably, Mudie's 
Select Circulating Library, founded in 1842, were repre- 
sentative middle-class institutions which accurately 
reflected the tastes of the times: 

... as tradesmen, their whole prosperity was bound up with 
keeping the three volume novel pure for their customers, and 
their relation to author, publisher, and reading public made it 
easy for them to dictate terms. When a book offended, it was 
entirely unnecessary to invoke the law ... the libraries simply 
refused to stock it.'*' 

All the circumstances of literary production and distri- 
bution conspired to give the circulating libraries an 
almost perfect means of censorship. The standard three- 
volume novel was only available to the reading public 
through the circulating library. Publishers did not sell 
directly to the reading public but only through circu- 
lating library proprietors, who, by virtue of the price of 
books, exercised a virtual monopoly. 
The rise of mass-circulated penny newspapers that 

serialized popular novels, and the rise of cheap novels in 
duodecimo size ended the circulating libraries' 
monopoly on moral censorship. In 1847 the Parlour 
Library began to publish single-volume novels at a cost 
of two shillings. This effort was so successful that 
Routledge's Railway Library was established to provide 
cheap reprints of popular novels. Between 1847 and 
1860, the two series had printed 340 cheap novels, 19 of 
which were by Bulwer. Newgate and Sensation novels 
were staples.^*' 

In 1848 W. H. Smith secured the right to sell books 
and newspapers at railway station stalls. The cheap 
novels that were made available were derisively termed 
"Yellow Backs." Although Smith purged the railway 
book stalls of much of the pornography that had been 
present, his "Yellow Backs" were primarily sensation 
novels with no pretence at self-improvement.^' 

The great fear of the upper classes that increasing 
literacy was the source of numerous evils, including the 
lowering of literary standards, the nurture of corrupt 
taste, and political and cultural revolution, whereby 
tastes would come to be set by the masses, had, in fact, 
been realized. Literature had become big business; it 
had been democratized. The trend continued as novels 
were produced even more cheaply. Condemnation by 
the upper classes could no longer impede the availa- 
bility of popular literature. 


Chapter Four 

Popular Literature in America 

The evolution of censorship in America followed the 
same lines as in Britain. The first printing press was 
established at Cambridge in 1638 and immediately all 
printing was placed under strict governmental supervi- 
sion. Education and printing were equated with heresy 
and treason and the colonial government regarded the 
press as dangerous unless it could be kept under auto- 
cractic control by pre-censorship and by licensing its 

The most popular form of literature in the U.S. in this 
early period was the cheap chapbook and broadside 
accessible to all. These were similar in content and form 
to those in Britain and continued to form the staple 
reading material of the majority well into the nineteenth 
century. British newspapers were imported into the 
colonies long before they were widely printed in 
America. Early colonial newspapers were modelled on 
British prototypes from which they procured stale but 
necessary European news. 

Newspaper control in America first took the form of 
government licensing; the next stage saw newspapers 
become tools of political parties, and finally content was 
dictated by mass audience appeal. A similar trend has 
been noted in the evolution of the British press. 

Books popular in the colonies were usually popular 
novels imported from Britain and made available 
through circulating libraries. By the nineteenth century 
the literary trade and influence between the two 
countries had become reciprocal rather than one-way. 

Surprisingly, the possible harmful effects of violence 
in fiction were recognized earlier and more widely in 
America than in Britain. While Englishmen were 
concerned primarily with seditious implications of 
inciting violence, Americans accepted violence as a 
means to reform. The history of the American press is 
fraught with violence, not only in content but in 
extralegal attempts to control content of offensive or 
libellous comment. Censorship of the obscene preceded 
that of violence in America, as in Britain, but the 
Americans recognized an inherent bond between sex 
and violent death. Perhaps for these reasons, violence in 
fiction was the cause of wide public concern; this 

concern was translated into legal means of censorship 
as early as the 1850s. 

American Newspapers 1690-1833 

Newspapers did not appear in the colonies until the last 
decade of the seventeenth century. Content had to be 
approved by the governor before printing, and news- 
stands were licensed only if they contained no criticism 
of the authorities or insults toward government officials 
or of Puritan Theocracy. Most sold at twopence with a 
circulation of httle over three hundred copies, and they 
tended to serve the wealthy merchant class at first. 
Illegal newspapers appeared despite the licensing laws 
and their printers were often severely prosecuted, 
usually by imprisonment. Illegal newspapers tended 
toward seditious content while the licensed press 
modelled itself after the London Gazette or Spectator 
and included poetry, social satire, and literary essays. 

By January of 1765 there were twenty-three weekly 
newspapers in the colonies.' Emphasis was given to 
stale news of wars and politics from Europe while local 
news was neglected. These newspapers devoted much of 
their space to details of Indian depredations, criminal 
captures and trials, disasters, fires, monstrosities, piracy, 
storms and accidents. 

Samuel Keimer opposed the frivolity and tone of the 
popular newspapers and published his Universal 
Instructor in all Arts and Sciences: and Pennsylvania 
Gazette in 1726 as an alternative. He believed that 
newspapers could spread rationalism and to this end he 
printed a cyclopaedia series from A to Z included in his 
paper. Unfortunately, it was not successful and ceased 
publication after a few years. 

Most newspapers had achieved a circulation of at 
least 1,000 when the Stamp Act was imposed on 
colonial publications in 1765.' This Stamp Duty caused 
virtually unanimous resistance in the colonies and most 
newspapers were published on regular as opposed to 
stamped paper. Papers were full of accounts of mob 
action of burning tax collectors in effigv and destroying 
stamped paper. 

The Stamp Act was repealed in 1767 and replaced 
with the Townshend Act which imposed a special tax on 


tea, paper, wine, oil, glass, lead, and paint. Radical 
opposition in America continued, and newspapers 
played a major role in the American Revolution. 
Patriots burned Royalist editors in effigy and mobbed 
and destroyed their plants. Royalist editors were 
threatened and several were lynched. Patriot papers 
were headed by the "join or die" snake symbol and 
featured violent woodcuts by Paul Revere. An illus- 
tration by Revere appeared in the Boston Gazette 
adorning the story of the Boston "massacre" in 1770.-^ It 
portrayed four blocks shaped like coffins with a death's 
head and the initials of a victim scratched on each. 

The content of newspapers was dominated by news 
of the revolutionary battles, but also included news of 
accidents, shipwrecks, fires, jail breaks, crime, and 
epidemics in large proportions. By the end of the war 
(1781) there were 35 newspapers with circulations 
averaging about 3,500. Subscription rates were 
commonly 12 shillings per year."* 

There had been no means of legal censorship 
throughout the war. The liberty of the press was instead 
checked by mobs, threats of violence and organizations 
such as the Sons of Liberty. By this time, the taste for 
reading in America was largely fed by daily and weekly 
journalism. The newspaper entered about 40,000 homes 
and its circulation was extended by means of coffee 
houses and inns where a single copy could be passed on 
as often as thirty times. ^ 

As in Britain, newspapers came under the control of 
the Congress between 1783 and 1833. There was no 
stamp duty in America but as party feelings grew, 
newspapers were founded as spokesmen for specific 
political parties. This partisan press incited much 
violence, and there was a long series of street encounters 
between editors of different political persuasions.^ 

Nevertheless. Freedom of the Press had been 
guaranteed by the First Amendment in recognition of 
the importance of free speech as a vital factor in 
fomenting the struggle against Britain. Remedies for 
scurrilous attacks on character were thus dominated by 
physical attacks on the off'ending editors. Only the 
short-lived "gag law" of 1798 attempted to restrict the 
freedom of the press. The Sedition Act was an attempt 
to muzzle press criticism of the government during the 
war with France. Widespread opposition caused the Act 
to be abolished in 1800 as unconstitutional. By 1801 the 
"Dark Ages" of American journalism had arrived, 
characterized by scurrility, assault, corruption, and 
blatant attacks on personal character. Although the 
number of libel suits increased, assaults on, duels with, 
and mob violence against editors were the most popular 
remedies for offensive comments appearing in 

By 1833 there were 1,200 newspapers with an average 
circulation of 1,000 each. America had become the 
greatest newspaper-reading country in the world. ^ 
Average subscription rates ranged from eight to ten 
dollars per year for dailies. News of the French Revolu- 

tion, national politics, outbreaks of violence, Indian 
wars in Florida. Napoleonic wars, domestic crime, and 
disasters dominated the news content. 

The American press not only featured violent content 
but seemed to be a constant incentive to violence. 

The Penny Press in America 1833-1860 

The spectacular phenomenon of the penny press 
occurred in America as it did in Britain. Although the 
purported aims of the Penny Press were to provide a 
realistic view, expose abuses, aid social amelioration, 
give emphasis to local and human-interest items, and 
replace partisan viewpoints with objective news, most 
built their circulation on sensational crime news. 
Widespread moral criticism was invoked and attempts 
to counteract the "Penny Dreadfuls" in America were 
primarily in the form of creating "moral" competitors. 

The first successful attempt to establish a penny press 
in America came in 1833 with the establishment of 
Benjamin Day's New York Sun. This was the most 
sensational and popular of the penny periodicals, 
reaching a circulation of 5,000 daily after only four 
months.^ The Sun emphasized local and human interest 
news, sensational events, crime news, and exploited 
police-court reports. 

The New York Transcript (1834-1839) was the Sun's 
first rival in sensational journalism. Its emphasis was 
similarly on exaggerated and humorous court reporting, 
illicit sex relations, prizefights, and criminal trials. It 
never achieved the phenomenal circulation figures of 
the Sun but was quite popular. Penny papers like the 
Transcript and the Sun never gave justifications for their 
emphasis on crime news. The sensational was exploited 
because it was popular and boosted circulation. 

Beginning in 1835. newspapers were estabhshed to 
protest the immorality of the Sun and its imitators and 
with the purported aim of educating the common 
people. Unlike the "purified press" movement in 
Britain, moral competitors in America also exploited 
crime news, but qualified their practice by insisting that 
their aim was to save souls by examples of "crime does 
not pay" rather than simply to make money. 

James Gordon Bennett's New York Herald was the 
first of the "moral competitors," appearing in 1835. 
Despite Bennett's claim to saving souls, he was the 
major impetus in building up the Robinson-Jewett 
murder to a height of interest which no other American 
murder case had achieved in the past. Bennett was 
convinced of Robinson's innocence and even did some 
detective work on his own. During the trial, scarcely 
any other news was printed. The New York Herald's 
circulation tripled as a result of the concentration on 
this murder.' 

Moral criticism against Bennett increased, led by 
committees of politicians, ministers, and men of social 
distinction in the ardent belief that respectable papers 
should not sink to the vulgarity of reporting sensational 
events, but that this type of material should be ignored. 


Boycotts were organized by respectable citizens and 
editors which succeeded in forcing the Herald's circu- 
lation down to two-thirds of its original 30,000. "Vehicle 
of moral leprosy," "obscene vagabond," and 
"venomous reptile" were terms used to describe Bennett 
and his Herald. Bennett was forced by public opinion to 
tone down his paper and thereafter circulation began to 
rise again to 60,000 in 1860.'" 

Horace Greeley established the New York Tribune in 
1841 as an instrument of moral war against the bad 
taste, coarseness, indecency, crime and sex emphasis, 
and questionable advertisements of the Sun and Herald. 
The Tribune was a bid to those who wanted a cheap but 
moral paper. Greeley declared his aversion to 

... the immoral and degrading Police reports, advertisements 
and other matter which have been allowed to disgrace the 
columns of our leading papers. ' ' 

Greeley's opposition to sensational journalism was 
based on a belief that crime reporting incites more 
crime, and accusations that 

. . . the damning guilt of making murderers rests on the souls of 
editors of papers who 'publish the loathesome details' of 
murder trials.'- 

Although the Tribune built its circulation on the 
elaborate reporting of the Colt murder case in 1842, the 
incident was described on a "higher ethical plane." The 
Tribune eventually gained the name of "The Great 
Moral Organ. "'^ 

The chief mechanism of control over the press 
remained that of "cudgel and horsewhip," duelling, and 
mob action against editors.''' These means of censorship 
were inspired primarily by libellous comments on 
character printed by editors, or by difference in 
attitudes toward slavery. James Fenimore Cooper's 
verbal attacks against the press between 1837 and 1845 
were based on a view that newspapers exercised a 
profoundly evil influence on society. The vast extent of 
libellous comment was his main concern and he 
initiated several suits against newspapers toward 
remedying the situation. '- 

While emphasis given to scandals and crime were 
severely censured by moralists in the long run, they 
were only counteracted by "purified" competitors. The 
ultimate alibi of the sensational journalist was 
"whatever the Divine Providence permitted to occur, I 
was not too proud to report."'^ 

American Journalism 1860-1914 

By 1890 there were 12,000 newspapers in the U.S. and 
circulations of popular newspapers reached at least 
100,000 daily. The period between 1860 and 1872 had 
been dommated by news of the Civil War, but after 
1872 the popular New York Sun, Herald, and Tribune 
continued sensational journalistic practices that had 
been established before 1860. Newspapers that were 
comparatively free of sensationalism like George 

Jones's New York Times were considered old-fashioned 
and declined in influence and power. '^ 

When Jo.seph Pulitzer bought the New York World \Ti 
1882, sensationalism m newspapers increased markedly 
following his example of a style termed the "New 
Journalism." By 1886, the World v^as the most popular 
newspaper in the United States with a circulation of 
25O,0iOO."* Good-quality, serious reporting formed the 
base of the World, but this was spiced by unprecedented 
sensationalism. The World was the leader in gossip, 
crime reports, crusades, and news "stunts" combined 
with numerous illustrations. Diagrams of scenes of 
crimes, with X marking the spot where the body was 
found, detailed pictures of fires and street scenes were 
all common. Basically, the New Journalism formula 
was detailed news coverage, peppered with sensation- 
alism, stunts, crusades, editorials of high character, 
illustration, promotional stunts, all in fourteen to 
sixteen pages, and for the cost of two cents. 

Pulitzer justified his use of sensationalism on two 
grounds. First, he believed that people should know 
about crime and disasters if they were to combat them, 
because such things flourished in secrecy. Second, 
Pulitzer wanted to talk to the whole nation rather than 
to a select minority and therefore used sensationalism 
as an appeal.'^ Pulitzer's style was the prototype for 
most popular newspapers in the period before 1892. 

Sunday newspapers also increased in number during 
this period. Pulitzer's Sunday edition of the New York 
World, called Sunday World, was the most popular with 
a circulation of 250,000 in 1887.^*' Five cents bought 
twenty pages of sensational news stories and serial 
fiction that was light and readable with numerous illus- 

Illustrated monthly magazines also began to appear 
by 1885. Harper's, Century and Scribner's were the most 
popular the latter with a circulation of 200.000 in 
1892.-' Periodical fiction aimed at juveniles became 
popular. There were many "blood and thunder" boys' 
papers at cheap prices. As an example. The Sterling 
Youth's Companion (1827-1936) had reached a weekly 
circulation of half a million by 1892." Comic Weeklies 
appeared for the first time in 1877. Puck (1877-1918) 
was bold, full of action, and merciless in satire. ^^ 

The New York Journal esldhhshed in 1895 by William 
Randolph Hearst marked the beginning of an even 
more sensational style that came to be called "Yellow 
Journalism." The Journal was essentially modelled after 
the World, but by 1896 it had surpassed the World in 
circulation figures. Sex, crime, and sensationalism were 
maintained at a high level with detailed illustrations in 
all editions. Newspaper editors now involved 
themselves in the detective business, offering rewards 
for clues to the latest horrible crime. 

A circulation war between the Journal and the Herald 
aroused such tremendous adverse sentiment toward the 
Spanish forces in Cuba that manv historians seriously 
suggest that it may have caused the Spanish-American 


War. Sensational stories of the sufferings of Cubans in 
concentration camps, complete with lurid illustrations 
of mutilated mothers, slaughtering of babies, execu- 
tions, and filthy living conditions, were numerous. The 
Journal and the World competed in their attempts to 
provide the most atrocious news first and encouraged 
Congress to make a declaration.^"* 

The "Yellow Journalism" formula was founded on 
crime news, scandal, gossip, sex, and disasters, and 
added to these the lavish use of pictures (a fairly new 
innovation), impostors, frauds, misleading headlines, 
faked stories, ostentatious sympathy with the underdog, 
and Sunday-supplement comics. Typical headlines from 
the Sunday Journal in 1895 were: 


Cuban Disciples of the Devil have Hideous 
Midnight Orgies. 

Alone in the Moonlight 
Savannahs they Disport 
Themselves like Fiends. 

Beauteous Sinuous Mulatto Girls at 

the "Dance of the Adder" in the 

Witch Doctor's Village 

Eating Snakes to Ward off End." 

An Opera Bouffe Assassination in Italy with a Real Corpse^* 

Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children 
faithfully read the "blood and thunder" Sunday features 
that were printed regularly in the Journal. The bizarre, 
horror, murder, and excitement were their watchwords. 
On December 29, 1895, the following crime story 
appeared spread over an entire page accompanied by 
pictures of the torture instruments: 


Gruesome Torture Instruments 

Collected by Mr. Gerry's Society^' 

"Yellow Journalism" was severely criticized. In 1896 a 
reform movement began to end the Journal and the 
World. Preachers spoke out against them in sermons, 
clergymen held mass meetings to devise a plan of 
action, numerous clubs cancelled subscriptions, and 
librarians joined the boycott. The single unifying factor 
among all these groups was a belief that the exploitation 
of sex and crime was a public menace.^** However, the 
boycott wasn't widely organized and had little effect. 
One incident serves to underline the nature of "yellow 
journalism" In 1901 Hearst printed an attack on 
President McKinley which concluded that, "If bad 
institutions and bad men can be got rid of only by 
killing then the killing must be done."-^^ Shortly there- 
after, McKinley was assassinated by a man who had a 
copy of the offending issue of the Journal in his pocket. 
The Journal was subsequently boycotted by business 
organizations, libraries, social clubs, and newsstands. 
Hearst was hanged in effigy. President Roosevelt, in his 
first message to Congress, stated that McKinley's 
assassin had probably been inflamed by " . . . reckless 

utterances of those who, on the stump or in the public 
press, appeal to dark and evil desires. "^"^ TTiis incident 
contributed most significantly to the downfall of the 
"yellow" press. 

The New York Times railed against "Yellow 
Journalism," and attempted to set an example by which 
the "yellow" press would lose prestige in comparison. 
The Boston Christian Science Monitor was established in 
1908 to act as a protest against "Yellow Journalism." Its 
founder, Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy, believed that crime 
and disaster news were unhealthful and developed a 
policy whereby crime stories were printed only when 
society was materially affected, or when a benevolent 
response was needed. 

Finally, in 191 1, an amendment to the Criminal Code 
made it a criminal offence to publish "matters of a 
character tending to incite arson, murder or 
assassination." The Postmaster General was given 
authority to deny the mails to papers containing this 
type of material.^' After 1911. newspapers tended to 
follow the example of the Times, and emphasis was 
placed on quahty and significant news and good edito- 
rials. Crime, court news, and scandals were certainly 
not ignored, but these were not sensationalized into full 
front-page spreads complete with lurid drawings and 
photographic illustrations. 

American Journalism Since 1914 

Newspapers had become "big business" by 1914. The 
decline and fall of the two largest New York dailies, the 
World Sind the Sun, marked the transition from personal 
propagandistic journalism to the conservative 
newspapers of businessmen. While the headlines of 
Joseph Pulitzer's World and Charles A. Dana's Sun 
continued their crusading, sensational, and at times, 
offensive style into the twentieth century ,^^ both were 
abandoned under the dual pressures of consolidation 
and chain ownership led by Randolph W. Hearst, 
Frank A. Munsey, Robert F. Scripps, and Roy W. 
Howard, and of the growing popularity of the tabloids. 

One of the most remarkable developments in early 
twentieth century journalism was the tabloid, and "jazz 
journalism."-*-^ The first American tabloid was Joseph 
Medill Patterson's Daily News, established in 1919. The 
Daily News, with its emphasis on pictorial presentation 
of crime-and-sex sensation, reached a circulation of one 
million by 1925, the highest of all existing dailies.^'' Its 
popularity inspired numerous competitors, the most 
popular of which were Hearst's Daily Mirror and 
Bernarr Macfadden's Daily Graphic, both established in 
1922. F. L. Mott says of the tabloids: "The older yellow 
journalism seemed pale by the side of the saffron of the 
new 'tabs'. "^^ 

A series of sensational murders and scandals between 
1922 and 1929 initiated a "War of Gutter Journalism" 
in which the leading tabloids tried to outdo each other 
in coverage. Three incidents stand out. The first was the 
murder of a preacher by the name of Hall and a choir 


singer, Mrs. Mills. The police, having no clues, closed 
the case. When the Mirror found a witness, the case was 
re-opened and a total of 200 reporters covered the trial. 
The defendant was found "not guilty" and he promptly 
sued the Daily Graphic for its sensational treatment of 
the testimonies.^^ l.ater, in 1928, when Ruth Snyder was 
executed for the murder of her husband, a Daily News 
reporter-photographer with a camera secretly attached 
to his ankle provided the front page picture of the 
electrocution." Numerous scandals containing much 
that was obscene were picked up by the tabloids. The 
"Daddy" Brown and "Peaches" scandal was covered in 
such an objectionable fashion by the Daily Graphic that 
The Society for the Suppression of Vice took its editors 
to court on charges of obscenity.^* 

Beginning in 1925, the regular eight-column 
newspapers and educational and church agencies led a 
campaign against the excesses of the tabloids. The result 
was that the Daily News was forced by public outcry to 
clean up its pages and offer more wholesome types of 
circulation builders. Both the Graphic and the Mirror 
disappeared. The tabloids that remained did not deal in 
sensationalism, invasion of privacy, and picture faking 
but in "non-salacious" reporting, taking advantage of 
the convenient half-page size and the traditions of a 
heavy emphasis on pictures and a condensed and lively 

The first American code of journalism ethics was 
prepared and adopted by the American Society of 
Newspaper Editors at its first annual meeting in 1923. 
The Code continues in its original form today as a 
censure against sensational techniques of the "yellow" 
and tabloid journalists and against imposed restrictions 
of the press. Section VII, labelled "Decency," is of 
particular interest. 


DECENCY. A newspaper cannot escape conviction of insin- 
cerity if while professing high moral purpose it supplies incen- 
tives to base conduct, such as are to be found in details of 
crime and vice, publication of which is not demonstrably for 
the general good. Lacking authority to enforce its canons, the 
journalism here represented can but express the hope that 
deliberate pandering [sic] to vicious instincts will encounter 
effective public disapproval or yield to the influence of a 
preponderant profession condemnation.'' 

F. L. Mott. in his extensive history of American 
journalism, notes that the great stories receiving the 
most attention in the press for any period usually 
"relate to wars, presidential elections, great disasters, 
uncommonly dramatic or sensational crimes and 
popular and 'built up' sports events,""*" yet, as the 
twentieth century progressed, treatment of these 
favourite topics became less sensational. In reaction to 
the "objectionable" tabloids, the Chicago Times was 
established in 1929 by Samuel Emory Thornason. The 
Times, soon the most popular tabloid, was devoted to 
abjuring sensationalism in its lively but terse and fair 
news reporting."*' Its popularity was proof that a 

balance between commercialism and professionalism 
was becoming the expected ideal in journalism. For this 
reason, the public outcry against the tabloids was the 
last major opposition to newspaper content. 

Freedom of the press from government infringement 
is a deeply embedded concept in American society. 
There have been few threats of government censorship 
of the press in this century. Censorship of the Amencan 
press during the two World Wars was accepted with 
little opposition by the American press. Despite these 
censorship laws, the American people were the most 
extensively and promptly informed by an "army" of 
foreign correspondents.'*'^ 

During World War I, the Espionage Act and the 
Sedition Act formed the basis of censorship laws. The 
Espionage Act of June 15, 1917, forbade the use of 
mails and provided heavy fines of imprisonment for 
anyone who "shall wilfully cause or attempt to cause . . . 
disloyalty ... or shall wilfully obstruct recruiting.""*^ 
The Sedition Act of May 16, 1918, amended the 
Espionage Act to include "any disloyal, profane, scurri- 
lous, or abusive language about the form of government 
of the United States or the Constitution, military or 
naval forces, flag, or the uniform of the army or navy of 
the United States" in addition to any statements 
"intended" to bring these things "into contempt, scorn, 
contumely, or disrepute.""*^ UnUke their Canadian 
counterparts, these World War I censorship laws were 
effective and applied to more than seventy-five 

A few days after the U.S. declaration of war, on 
December 19, 1941, the United States Office of 
Censorship was created to censor all communications 
entering and leaving the United States for the duration 
of World War II.'^ In addition, a voluntary system of 
censorship without legal sanctions was set up which 
worked very effectively to suppress news dealing with 
shipping, planes, troops, fortifications, armaments, and 
weather conditions.'*'' Despite rigorous censorship provi- 
sions, the Second World War was heavily covered, the 
American public receiving graphic details of battles in 
addition to interviews with wounded and shell-shocked 

In the U.S., as in Canada, it is primarily the libel laws 
which perform as the only means of press control 
during peace time. Although State legislation has 
attempted to infringe upon the freedom of the press at 
times, the United States Supreme Court has upheld 
press freedom and considered libel laws adequate 
protection of the citizen against possible abuse by the 

Although there have been numerous strictures against 
American newspapers, specifically concerned with 
excessive violence in their pages, there have been no 
major protests since the 1930s. Although the treatment 
of violence may be less sensational and. therefore, 
receiving less attention, violence, in its many forms, still 
comprises a significant percentage of new spaper reports. 


Terry Ann Knopf analyzed the press coverage of the 
Chicago shoot-out between poHce and a group of blacks 
on July 23, 1968, and other incidents of racial violence 
during July and August of that year, and compared 
them to the facts gathered from those involved.''^ As a 
result, she suggested that sensationalism in the press has 
not been totally abandoned. She concluded: 

Unfortunately, inaccurate and sensational headlines created an 
impression of widespread sniping, with the police singled out 
as the principal targets. A few individual acts of violence were 
so enlarged to convey to the reader a series of 'bloodbaths.' In 
some cases, an explanation of the circumstances surrounding 
the injuries was buried in the news story. In other cases, no 
explanation was given. In still other cases, the number of 
casualties was exaggerated. Distorted headlines were found in 
the local press.'" 

Knopfs study indicates that, in fact, most of the 
uprisings were precipitated by prior tensions and not 
planned by "snipers" attached to militant Black organi- 
zations. Further, there were fewer shots fired and fewer 
casualties than the press recorded. 

Today, newspapers tend to be local in orientation. 
However, a study conducted between 1948 and 1950 by 
James Davis revealed no consistent relationship 
between the amount of crime news in newspapers and 
local crime rates. Further, his study revealed that public 
opinion reflects the trends in the amount of crime news 
reported rather than in actual crime rates." Apparently, 
crime and violence are still big sellers for newspapers. 

This theme is picked up by Herbert A. Otto in a 1961- 
62 study of the amount of crime and sex in the content 
of newsstand magazines, newspapers, and paperbacks. ^^ 
Otto found that men's magazines, such as Playboy, had 
the largest number of pictures depicting themes of sex 
and violence combined with an average of 4,157 words 
devoted to violence and a heavy emphasis on physical 
torture and rape. Police and detective magazines, such 
as True Detective and True Police, had an average of 
thirty murders and seven robberies per issue, led the 
field in descriptions of incidents of rape and physical 
torture, and had an average of 6,199 words devoted to 
violence. Romance magazines, such as Real Confessions 
and True Love, ranked third in detail descriptions of 
physical torture and second in descriptions of rape. 
Family magazines, such as Ladies' Home Journal. 
Redbook and Reader's Digest, devoted only 926 words to 
physical violence but led in their emphasis on verbal 
attack using abusive violent language. 

For newspapers, Otto found a surprisingly low total 
amount of space devoted to descriptions of violent 
incidents. War violence was the highest followed by 
accidental violence and then by murder and physical 
violence. While most newspapers were found to devote 
between two and three per cent of their total content to 
violence, the Detroit News was as high as 8.8 per cent 
and the tabloid, the New York Daily News, was the 
highest with 33.5 per cent of total content devoted to 

Otto found approximately 50 per cent of cheap 
paperbacks fell within seductive-sadistic-violence 

Although little attention is given to excessive violence 
and sex in the popular print media today, and the 
predominant belief is that the treatment of these themes 
is decreasing, Otto concludes: 

Most magazines available on the corner newsstand are riddled 
with a metastasis of sex and violence themes . . . [and] there are 
definite indications of a significant increase in the quantity of 
violence and sex themes found on the new.sstands over the last 
ten years . . . With the exception of the tabloids, newspapers 
are not as preoccupied with these themes as the other media." 

Since the 1930s, attention focusing on the prevalence of 
sex and violence in the media of communications has 
been displaced, with few exceptions (comic books), to 
motion pictures and television, while newspapers, 
magazines, and pocketbooks have been neglected, 
apparently without justification.^'* 

American Fiction: The Conflict Between Social Unity 
and Individualism 

D. B. Davis, in his book Homicide in American Fiction, 
J 798-1 860, noted ihat: 

... if we could formulate a generalized image of America in the 
eyes of foreign peoples from the eighteenth century to the 
present, it would surely include, among other things, a 
phantasmagoria of violence, from the original Revolution and 
Indian wars to the sordid history of lynching; from the casual 
killings of the cowboy and bandit to the machine-gun murders 
of racketeers. America . . . where it is estimated that a new 
murder occurs every forty-five minutes, has also glorified 
personal whim and impulse and has ranked hardened killers 
with the greatest of folk heroes. Founded and preserved by acts 
of aggression, characterized by a continuing tradition of self- 
righteous violence against suspected subversion and by a 
vigorous sense of personal freedom, usually involving the 
widespread possession of firearms, the United States has 
evidenced a unique tolerance of homicide." 

The relationship between American violent social 
reality and violence in fiction has been widely debated 
in the United States in recent years. While Henry Irving 
Dodge in 1921 asserted that "... the public grown used 
to 'strong medicine' in fact, must have even stronger 
medicine in fiction, "-^^ literary critic, Kenneth Lynn, in a 
study prepared for the National Commission on the 
Causes and Prevention of Violence (1968-69) pleads for 
a re-examination of literary violence." Lynn suggests 
violence in literature is a literary tool like many other 
fictional conventions used to comment upon and 
interpret the existing social environment. Lynn heaps 
criticism upon the social scientists who extrapolate 
violent incidents out of context to create false impres- 
sions about the extent and nature of violence in 
American literature. Literary violence, according to 
Lynn, must be studied in its context because: 

. . . mitigating dreams of peace ... are threaded through the 
very bloodiest of our novels and stories, [and] . . . comic juxta- 


positions . . . lake the curse off many of the most unpleasant 
episodes that the American imagination has ever recorded.''" 

Lynn also opposes "messianic" literary critics such as 
D. H. Lawrence and Leslie Fiedler who indict 
American society on the basis of their judgment that 
violence is the dominant and ever-increasing theme in 
American literature. Asserting that it is fallacious to 
assume that literature is an exact mirror of life, Lynn 
examines a representative sample of outbursts of 
violence in literature and concludes that although there 
are similarities in life and literature, the American novel 
is more extreme in many ways than reality and provides 
more insight into the state of the author's mind than 
into American society. 

At times, however, the distinction between fictional 
violence and reports of actual violence disappears. 
Henry Irving Dodge reveals an excellent example of the 
blurring of fiction and fact in the New York Times, 
January 30, 1921: 

The public cares for the story more than for the news. Suppose 
the papers should give but the bare facts of a crime, undeco- 
rated or "played up" by the skillful dramatists of the repor- 
torial staffs. Public interest would be small. Why do you ask, 
do we devote thousands of dollars worth of space - column 
after column - to the literal report of a single trial? Simply 
because there is nothing more dramatic than words uttered on 
the witness stand. They most always have a portentous bearing 
and so thoroughly does the editor appreciate this that he 
always sends his best men to report big cases and often 
employs famous fiction writers to play up local colour and 
scenic effect.'** 

Just as newspapers turned to writers of fiction to spice 
up factual accounts, writers of fiction have often turned 
to factual material for the basis of their novels. Truman 
Capote made the transition from fiction to fact to 
produce the popular In Cold Blood. Capote moved to 
Kansas, where he lived for three years, to interview 
Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, murderers of the 
Clutter family, friends, and neighbours of the victims, to 
produce a vivid portrait of the killers. While many 
believed that In Cold Blood 'was a plea for the abolition 
of capital punishment. Capote denies the allegation by 
saying, "if the boys hadn't been executed, then I 
wouldn't have had an effective ending for the book."^° 

D. B. Davis concurs with Lynn in the belief that 
violence in literature is not proof of an excessively 
violent society. Davis' thesis is that literary violence 
reflects, but does not mirror, historical conditions, 
tensions and social patterns.^' Rather than studying 
specific examples as Lynn does, Davis traces a general 
pattern of violence in American literature from its 
beginnings to the present and concludes: 

Critics who interpret violence in contemporary literature as a 
symptom of a sick society may be reassured to know that 
American writers have always been preoccupied with murder, 
rape, and deadly combat. Yet, in so far as the older themes 
(revolution, civil war and violence as something to be either 
suppressed and disciplined or at least applied to rational ends) 
have been assimilated to an antirationalist philosophy 

[violence is a "creative" force, as the "very quintessence of 
reality"], and the individualistic hero [of the frontier] has been 
moved from the open seas or prairies to a dense society Jurban 
America] in which only the most brutal survive, the treatment 
of violence has grown increasingly ominous for a people who 
profess to believe in peace and human brotherhood." 

Davis suggests that the Western hero, first created by 
James Fenimore Cooper in the character of Deerslayer 
(Hawkeye), was the result of a conflict between 
opposing American ideals of the omnipotent individ- 
ualist and of social unity. By inaugurating the great 
tradition of the Western, the conflict between aggressive 
self-reliance and self-sacrificing unity was evaded. The 
individualist on the frontier could be regarded as a 
constructive rather than destructive force, taming the 
west and creating his own laws. In the struggle for 
survival, the western hero proved himself through acts 
of violence. 

As the frontiers disappeared, an antirationalist 
treatment of violence began to dominate American 
fiction. The Western gave way to the detective novel, a 
tradition inaugurated by Edgar Allan Poe, displaying a 
fascination with and almost a celebration of the 
passions, fears, and motivations of man's irrationality. 
The rise in popularity of the Newgate Novel in Britain 
to replace the Gothic novel is likewise the result of the 
transition to an antirationalist treatment of violence and 

The first attacks on the popularity of murder in 
fiction in America came in 1807 from the novelist 
Charles Brockden Brown. He believed that, "like all 
departures from nature and cormnon sense," crime and 
violence in fiction "will have but a short reign. "^-^ Brown 
himself, more than any other early American novelist, 
had contributed to the fictional study of murder and the 
psychology of the criminal. Brown believed that 
violence was a substitute for suppressed desires and was 
sanctioned only by perverted conscience or insanity. 

Despite Brown's wishes, the 1830s and 1840s brought 
a flood of English novels in the Newgate tradition that 
evoked sympathy for the criminal as the product of his 
environment. In these novels criminals were always 
portrayed as victims of brutal slums and circumstances. 

Edgar Allen Poe, the founder of the "Detective 
Novel," was, like Dickens, Ainsworth and Bulwer 
before him, fascinated with murders and criminal 
psychology.^'* Poe adopted earlier pirate and highway 
robbery accounts that had been popular and made 
crime in fiction respectable by disguising violence as 
justice.^^ However, in Poe's work the criminal is no 
longer the hero. Rather, the hero is the detective 
superman who is permitted to take justice into his own 
hands. "We are meant to project ourselves into the 
character of the hero avenger" and "the reader becomes 
the lyncher, seeking blood and death and lynching of 
the murderer."^^ 

From the sentimental romance of the 1790s to the 
"yellow back" novel of 1850, the theme that seduction 
means death is constantlv repeated. However, in 


American fiction sexual error and violent murder 
became parts of one inexorable process. The fear of 
sexual corruption in America increased to such a degree 
that certain offences were omitted from a liberal 
criminal code. Edward Livingston in A System of Penal 
Law, for the State of Louisiana (Philadelphia, 1833) 

... as every crime must be defined, the details of such a 
definition would inflict a lasting wound on the morals of the 
people. Your criminal code is no longer to be the study of a 
select few ... it is particularly desirable, that it should become 
a branch of early education for our youth. The shock which 
such a chapter must give to their pudicity, the familiarity their 
minds must acquire with the most disgusting images, would . . . 
be most injurious in its effects.*^ 

Livingston's conception of a crime too horrible for 
punishment is unique in jurisprudence. Most fictional 
accounts of murder during the nineteenth century 
involved sexual conflict. However, literary descriptions 
were devoted more to detail and realism of sudden 
death than to that of sexual violations. The link between 
the two was thoroughly accepted but was never 

The association between sex and death became more 
complex in the strange American nineteenth-century 
obsession with corpses. Instead of a casual relationship, 
sexual sin meant death, and killing meant sexual 
possession.^*^ Perhaps humorous treatment of corpses 
releases some of the tension of this connection between 
death and sex. But, for whatever reason, 

. . . death in picturesque, horrible, or exaggerated forms was a 
source of laughter. Bodies of the lynched, the murdered, and 
the grotesquely killed are stock devices.™ 

The sensational sex murder of Helen Jewett in 1836 was 
tremendously popular and seemed to reinforce the 
connection between sexual sin and horrible murder. 
Helen Jewett, a young prostitute, was murdered with an 
axe at a "Palace of Passions" in New York. The 
criminal then set fire to the bed, hoping to conceal his 
crime. The New York Herald's coverage of the Jewett 
murder included a vivid description of the appearance 
of the corpse. The Herald's circulation tripled within a 
week of this sensational story. ^' Holt Ingram's novel of 
1843 provided a fictional explication of this well-known 
murder. Several other accounts, fictional and narrative, 
were inspired. 

Poe also identified sexual love with death, be it 
physical, moral, or spiritual. This theme, fully 
developed in American fiction, was not completely new. 
It has roots in the Gothic novel, particularly in Matthew 
Gregory Lewis's The Monk, which in turn was deeply 
influenced by de Sade. 

In August of 1835, Nile's Register lamented that 
"many of the people of the United States are 'out of 
joint,' a spirit of riot or a disposition to 'take the law 
into their own hands' prevails in every quarter."^^ 
Numerous periodicals expressed concern that America 
faced a violence crisis. Duelling continued throughout 

America until the late eighteenth century, except in the 
South where it remained part of the Southern code of 
honour until about 1830. Mob lynchings continued long 
after duelling had disappeared, and well into the 
twentieth century. However, 

Even after western gunmen had surrendered their sawed-off 
shotguns and six-shooters, Americans continued to glorify the 
memory of grim-faced duellists, who drew blood when a 
remark was made without a smile, who walked stiff-legged 
toward each other at high noon, their gloved hands poised 
above the curving handles of revolvers in oiled holsters." 

Most fictional accounts of violence reflected the law of 
revenge - inherent in duelling and lynching customs. 
Moralists condemned novels as the "nerve and arm of 
the Duellist and the Murderer." The criminal's actions 
could always be explained by circumstances by 
novelists seeking to discover motives for aggression. 

By 1850, writers of fiction condemned duelling and 
mob lynching practices. Many believed, as George 
Lippard repeatedly suggested, that executions arouse 
the public's taste for blood and subsequently increase 
the incidence of crimes.^'' Public executions were 
intended to rid spectators of evil impulses but novelists 
contended that they actually aroused aggressive 
passions and served as vicarious outlets for murderous 
desires. ^^ 

Edward Lytton Bulwer's Paul Clifford had a profound 
influence on popular American literature. William 
Gilmore Simms in America took up the theme that the 
criminal was a victim of circumstances and that the 
injustices of society were actually responsible for crime. 
Guy Rivers (\S34) by Simms describes a criminal with a 
marked appetite for violence and destruction. 

The United States had its criminal calendar too. In 
1833 Henry St. Clair compiled the United States 
Criminal Calendar: or, An Awful Warning to the Youth of 
America. It was largely inspired by the murder of 
Solomon Sharp, speaker of the Kentucky House of 
Commons, by Jereboam O. Beauchamp. Beauchamp 
was executed, while nearly dead from self-inflicted knife 
wounds, before a huge crowd of spectators. St. Clair, 
like other moralists of his time, believed that sensational 
crimes were meant to be exploited only for their reform- 
atory persuasion. 

Simms's novel. Guv Rivers, was also based on the 
exploits of an actual criminal. It was very similar to the 
Newgate Novel in treatment, but Simms believed that 
the moral of the story was that human nature involves a 
desire for excitement, violence, and destruction, and 
that parents should control such passions in children 
through careful guidance. ^^ 

The relationship between violence in literature and 
violence in reality has been a central concern of literary 
critics since the beginnings of American fiction. The 
earlier direction of concern was from literary violence to 
violence in actuality, suggesting the possibility that a 
work of fiction is capable of inciting the reader to acts 
of violence (a common view m the eighteenth, 


nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries). More 
recently, the query has been offered whether or not a 
violent literary tradition reflects a violent American 
society. It seems that while violence in literature 
remains a constant, and many criticisms recur, new 
interpretations of its value and functions emerge in 

The detective novel is a good example of this 
phenomenon. From its origin with Poe, through the 
Spillane thrillers, to EUery Queen and Agatha Christie, 
the detective novel has been dependent upon a plot of 
crime and violence. All have to some extent been 
accused of pandering to the public taste for sex and 
sadism, providing blueprints for criminal activity, and 
generally for being of adverse moral influence. ^^ Yet 
Poe was defended for breaking the tradition of criminal 
as hero; though he probed the psychology of the 
criminal, he did not portray him as heroic. Spillane is 
the culmination of violence on the side of justice and, 
while many critics condemn Spillane's "sickening" 
graphic descriptions of violence, quoting passages 
similar to the ones which follow, others refer to the 
hero, Mike Hammer, as the "saviour" of society. The 
narrator in both passages is the "good" character, as 
opposed to the criminals in the story. From The Big 

The little guy stared too long. He should have been watching 
my face. I snapped the side of the rod across his jaw and laid 
the flesh open to the bone. He dropped the sap and staggered 
into the big boy with a scream starting to come up out of his 
throat only to get it cut off" in the middle as I pounded his teeth 
back into his mouth with the end of the barrel. The big guy 
tried to shove him out of the way. He got so mad he came right 
at me with his head down and I took my own damn time about 
kicking him in the face. He smashed into the door and lay 
there bubbling. So I kicked him again and he stopped 
bubbling. I pulled the knucks off his hand then went over and 
picked up the sap. The punk was vomiting on the floor, trying 
to claw his way under the sink. For laughs I gave him a taste of 
his own sap on the back of his hand and felt the bones go into 
splinters. He wasn't going to be using any tools for a long time. 

The victim of the next assault has been described as 
having "a middle-aged, sensitive Latin face." After this 
man has given the hero certain information, the hero 
blames him for the deaths of victims of the Mafia. He 

'I know them! From Europe I know them and who am I to 
speak against them. You do not understand what they do to 
people. You ..." My knuckles cracked across his jaw so hard 
he went back over the arm of a chair and spilled in a heap on 
the floor. He lay there with his eyes wide open, and the spit 
dribbling out of his open mouth started to turn pink. He was 
the bug caught in the web trying to hide from the spider and he 
backed into the hornet's nest.'* 

Jerry Palmer, literary critic and cultural historian, cites 
quite different passages from those above to illustrate 
that it is not the violence of the hero, Mike Hammer, 
that is sickening, but that of his opponents. Palmer 
builds an elaborate theory which suggests that Mike 

Hammer is the "saviour" of society rather than its 

The dramatic function of this violence is, it would seem, to 
exhilarate the reader: involved with the hero, one is intended 
to enjoy with him the suppression of the evil men against 
whom he pits himself . . . the reader's sensibility is so afl"ected 
by the white heat of hatred that he may well assume that a 
person who can be so single-minded in his hatred of something 
(evil) cannot but be pure in his motivation, and if Spillane can 
make his reader accept the purity of the hero's motivation, he 
has half succeeded in making him accept the justifiability of his 
actions. . . . Hammer's world ... a world which is super-or- 
dinate to the ordinary world, for it is the invisible battlefield in 
the midst of society, where the fate of that society is fought 
out: the hero confronts a gigantic plot - Mafia, Soviet spy ring, 
etc. - and eventually destroys it, thus becoming the saviour of 
society, the preserver of the American way of life. . . . This 
society which the hero is trying to save is just the one which is 
creating a way of life which is incompatible with his ideas of 
how life should be lived and societies should be run (the well- 
known conflict between the ideology of free enterprise and the 
restrictions demanded by the rationalized liberal state). It is 
only by existing on the fringes of society and by being its 
saviour that the hero can affirm both his individuality and his 
social ability.'"* 

The numerous fans of the modern detective novels of 
Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, Edgar Wallace, and 
others, including noted heads of state, **° and the authors 
themselves, defend the genre as being merely puzzles, 
divorced from the reality of murder and providing 
otherwise bored readers with excitement and the 
challenge of a new game, not with cathartic tension 

The Pulps 

Publications which came to be known collectively as the 
"pulps" started to emerge in the 1840s and continued to 
the 1930s when they were largely abandoned for new- 
forms of entertainment such as comic books and radio. 
The family "story paper" was the first of the "pulps" 
to evolve, beginning in 1841 with a publication entitled 
Uncle Sam. The questionable novels of G. W. M. 
Reynolds and Eugene Sue in seriahzed format 
comprised the largest part of its content. Uncle Sam was 
criticized for printing stories which 

. . . had too much of The London Journal's seduction-and-sui- 
cide flavour, or even worse, the seduced was rewarded by 
ultimate marriage.*^ 

Further, this publication was railed against for 
accepting "questionable" advertising for abortions, 
patent medicines, and books on venereal disease. 
Although it was very successful for a time, criticism of 
the "family" story paper mounted, circulation dropped, 
and Uncle Sam ceased publication. 

Shortly thereafter, in 1848. Fred Gleason of Boston 
established The Flag of the Free. The Flag contained 
many serialized novels of Joseph Holt Ingraham. an 
author associated with cheap, trashy literature called 
"yellow backs."**' While claimina a hish moral tone, this 


publication was devoted entirely to entertainment by 
way of sensational news, adventure and love stories, 
and a few moral sketches. By 1849 The Flag's circu- 
lation was 40,000. "The Black Avenger of the Spanish 
Main or the Fiend of Blood" and "The Red Revenger" 
are typical story titles, highly suggestive of content. Also 
included regularly were the gory tales of Mrs. Ann 
Stephens, describing Indian atrocities on the American 
frontier. *'* 

Other popular story paper weeklies of the early 
period include Justin Jones's Star Spangled Banner 
(1844) of "murderous design with dressy soldiers 
flourishing their swords as they rode into battle";^^ The 
Union Jack which was devoted to land and sea battles, 
piracy and whaling; and The True Flag (1855) which 
filled its huge front page with sensational stories and 
always contained at least one murder. 

Of later family story papers. The New York Ledger, 
established by Robert Bonner in 1858, was the most 
successful. Mrs. Southworth, an extremely popular 
author of fiction, was hired to write its feature serial 
stories, always accompanied by an illustration of a 
murder or a death that was sure to be included in every 
weekly number. The Ledger's circulation soon outdis- 
tanced every other newspaper and periodical in the U.S. 
with a circulation of 400,000 in 1860. This success 
inspired numerous imitations in the sixties.*^ 

Cheap paperback nickel and dime novels flourished 
between 1860 and 1885. These novels were condensed 
versions of larger works and came by way of popular 
serials in illustrated stopy' weeklies. Stories appeared in 
such papers as The Fireside Companion (1872), The 
Family Paper (\S10) and The New York M^eekly {\S59). 
If they were popular in this form, the whole series would 
be published in a two-dollar reprint and then finally 
made available for mass distribution in condensed 
dime-novel format. 

Beginning in 1855, Street and Smith Publishers were 
the first to produce dime novels. One of their most 
popular publications was the clean-cut detective Nick 
Carter, who continually found himself in violent situa- 
tions. Carter first appeared in Street and Smith's story 
paper The New York Weekly in a story by John Russell 
Coryell entitled "The Old Detective's Pupil." Street and 
Smith decided to capitalize on the character's enormous 
popularity and commissioned Frederick Van Rensselaer 
Dey to write a series of dime novels to form the Nick 
Carter Library}^ 

In 1860, Irwin P. Beadle and Co. made cheap novels 
even cheaper and began to publish juvenile novels at a 
nickel. After 1860 most of the new story papers to enter 
the field were just one product of larger businesses 
which published dime novels, cheap reprints, boys' 
papers, girls' papers, and family story papers. TTiis type 
of literature reached its peak of popularity in the seven- 
ties. While the family story papers and dime novels 
declined after 1880, juvenile papers and nickel novels 
continued to be popular until 1892. 

Story papers and cheap novels, with their widest 
audience among the young, claimed adherence to high 
moral standards. The vices of tobacco smoking, 
blasphemy, gambling, drinking, and suicide were 
attacked. Heroes were regularly required to refuse a 
cigarette or a drink as an example to young readers. 
However, the villian was given liberty to use slang, 
smoke, drink, and kill. Moral greyness was absent from 
this literature. A simple opposition between good and 
evil was presented with virtue always victorious. There 
were no compromises. 

Popular characters among boys' story papers were 
Ned Buntline's "merciless Ben the Hairlifter" who 
"never spares a redskin but kills and scalps all whom he 
can meet or trail, "^^ and Buffalo Bill, described by Mary 
Noel as 

. . . the perfect stuffed shirt of the story-paper wilderness. He 
never drank. In Ingraham's stories he never smoked, in 
Buntline's only occasionally and with apologies. In Ingraham's 
stories he never left off a "g" at the end of an "ing" word. He 
never swore or uttered a word of slang. In Buntline's a few 
liberties of speech were allowed him, but even in moments of 
unrestrained anger Buffalo Bill was conscious of his audience. 
This was his manner of speaking: 

'Can the memory of my good father, butchered in cold blood 
before his poor wife and helpless children, ever pass away? No, 
Bill, never, never! I will never feel that he rested easy in his 
grave while one of them is alive to boast of the dark deed he 
has done. I have with my own hand killed two-thirds of them 
and until all are gone - and by my hand, too, I will not feel 
content. I heard the wretch groaning from pain this morning. It 
was music to my soul. Oh, how I wanted to whisper in his ear, 
'Fiend, the pursuer is at hand! Your time is drawing near; the 
spirit of the murdered hovers near to exult over your tortured 
end!' Bill, I could glory in every pain that reached his frame. I 
could see his eyeballs start in agony from his head - the beaded 
sweat, blood-colored, ooze from his clammy skin - each nerve 
and tendon quivering like the strings of a harp struck by a 
maniac hand. Oh how I could glory over his howling misery! 
And it is coming, it is coming - his time. When it does, mercy 
need not plead to me - not a throe, not a pulsation would I 
spare for the wealth of all the world!'*' 

Story papers were ridiculed, criticized, or ignored by the 
more sophisticated newspapers. Novels and papers 
aimed primarily at a juvenile audience were most 
severely criticized. ''^ Numerousjuvenile misdemeanours 
such as running away from school were attributed to 
reading this material. The New York Tribune attacked 
dime novels for leading boys astray and a member of 
the New York assembly introduced a bill to prohibit the 
sale of any fictional material to juveniles under 16 years 
of age without parental consent.*^' 

Not until 1946 was the full-length, unabridged novel 
produced at comparatively cheap prices. Mickey 
Spillane novels, the successor to the dime novel, could 
be purchased for twenty-five cents. Succeeding the 
juvenile story papers were the comic books, appearing 
first, just prior to World War I, at a cost often cents. 

Although violence in fiction had inspired widespread 
and severe criticism by the nineteenth century, it was 


the gradual availability of such fiction to the common 
people at cheap prices that invoked the most severe 
attacks. Concomitant with the emergence of the pulps 
was the founding of the New York Society for the 
Suppression of Vice, and the resulting "Comstock laws" 
which instituted legal means of censoring violence in 
fiction. The Parent Teacher Association, founded in 
1897, also displayed militant pressure against the pulps. 
From this climax, however, those censorship laws which 
did exist have been annulled.''^ 

Comstockery in America 

Anthony Comstock was the 'guardian of the moral purity of 
youth' in America. For more than forty years Comstock stood 
watch at what he called the 'sewer mouth' of society, alert and 
expert at identifying obscenity and aggressive in arresting it." 

Anthony Comstock was born in 1844 and raised in rural 
Connecticut then the most religiously orthodox and 
socially conservative part of the United States. As a 
private in a Connecticut regiment during the Civil War, 
he spent most of his time fighting to reform the morals 
of his comrades. Following the War, Comstock became 
a New York dry goods clerk but persisted in his visions 
of "moral heroism" and in his determination to make 
the poUce enforce Sunday-closing, anti-obscenity, and 
other laws that were often disregarded. Comstock's first 
exploit came on March 3, 1872, when he presented 
obscene books and pictures to the police and reported 
the vendor who was then arrested. Between 1872 and 
his death in 1915, Comstock was responsible for the 
arrest of more than 3,600 men, women, and children on 
moral grounds, not always restricted to obscenity. 

Comstock believed that he was divinely commis- 
sioned to his post of "moral guardian" and that it was 
doubly blessed, being both assigned by God and being 
in the service of protecting children. His enemies were 
legion and included the "free thinkers" such as D. M. 
Bennett, Robert IngersoU, and Ezra Heywood. 
However, he also had the support of numerous 
respectable citizens who believed that he embodied the 
"moral sense" of the era. Many cartoons ridiculed him, 
but most editorial writers found reasons to justify his 
actions. It was Comstock's own arbitrary definitions of 
"immorality" and "obscenity" that were accepted in the 
courts of law and enforced by Comstock's strong-armed 

Comstock's conviction was that a "single book or a 
single picture may taint forever the soul of the person 
who reads it.'"^"* Evil reading, according to Comstock, 
encompassed nearly all light fiction and popular 
journalism; from the story papers to dime and half- 
dime novels. Both of Comstock's books. Frauds Exposed 
and Traps for the Young, resembled the half-dime novels 
that he deplored both in "blood and thunder" style and 
in appearance. Containing detailed information on all 
forbidden adventures, they are addressed to parents as 
warnings. Villains are described as Satan's agents and 

Comstock is always the hero, coming to the rescue of 
the innocent. 

Comstock founded the New York Society for the 
Suppression of Vice in 1872, and in 1873 he lobbied for 
amendment of the Post Office Act. Section 148 of this 
Act dealt with the offence of sending obscene matenal 
through the mails, and Comstock successfully pressed 
for a longer list of material qualifying as off"ensive, and 
for more severe penalties. This new version, amended 
according to his wishes, became known as the 
Comstock Law.^^ 

Unlike the Society for the Suppression of Vice and its 
successor, the National Vigilance Association (1886). in 
Britain, Comstock did not limit his activities to the 
suppression of the sexually obscene. He believed that 
the stories in the dime novels and story papers were the 
sole cause of juvenile delinquency. Comstock disre- 
garded all possible social or psychological explanations, 
and in every case of delinquency mentioned, with great 
diligence he traced the deed back to popular juvenile 
literature. He believed all delinquents were "school 
boys crazed by the accursed blood and thunder stor\' 
papers"^^ and set out to eradicate their harmful 

In the mid- 1880s Comstock successfully prosecuted 
book dealers for selling criminal story papers and 
stories of bloodshed and crime. The Society for the 
Suppression of Vice's Sixth Annual report deals in great 
length with the so-called "Boys Papers" which are 
attributed with making hardened criminals out of 
children, educating them in crime and filling the courts 
with "baby felons. "^^ 

The Report observed: 

Repeated instances have occurred within the last few years 
where boys have become brigands, and have banded 
themselves together with an oath of secrecy, to plunder and 
pillage, having a rendezvous in some cave, or deserted house, 
or some underground saloon.'* 

and resolved that: 

What the law does not reach, under the present administration, 
we have sought to reach and crush, by creating public 
sentiment against law breakers. Several of these vile papers 
have been stopped within the past year, and are no longer 
published. As a result, the Canadians have sent a solemn 
protest to our Post Office Department against sending the vile 
Police Gazelle through the mails, across their lines. Western 
cities are legislating in their councils against it and will not 
permit it to be sold in their limits.'''' 

The Society's efi'orts to mobilize popular opinion were 
vigorous. Public ineetings were organized throughout 
the United States and in Canada. Public addresses on 
"Evil Reading, a source of Vice and Crime" were 
widespread. Out of these efforts, numerous states passed 
laws to control the criminal stor\- papers, the Police 
Gazette, and similar publications that tended to incite 
criminal behaviour. 

This vigorous control over the products of the press 
diminished after Comstock's death but the Society for 


the Suppression of Vice, aided by laws prohibiting the 
exploitation of crime in publications, secured further 
convictions. As of 1948 however, the U.S. Supreme 
Court negated the "bloodshed" law that prohibited 
"papers discriminately made up of reports of crime, 
police reports, lust, etc." Thus, there were no longer any 
legal means to prevent crime and violent sensation- 
alism. Since the Society for the Suppression of Vice 
there have been no widespread attempts to control this 
type of material backed by determined volunteer 
guardians of the public morality. '°° 

Canada has never had laws restricting violent content 
in popular literature. However, the Canadian Customs 
Act of 1907 broadly prohibited the importation of 
"immoral," "indecent," "treasonable," or "seditious" 
material, and a list of prohibited publications was 
compiled.'"' Many of those listed are American period- 
icals such as Illustrated Police News, Police Gazette, The 
Police News and others that are probably prohibited for 
"obscene" content. The list does not indicate which 
adjective applies to each publication or which section 
was considered objectionable. Since 1907 the prohib- 
ition has been lifted for most of those in the list. Essen- 
tially, the Customs Act, by its control over the 
importation of books, was the main source of 
censorship in Canada. 


Chapter Five 

A Brief History Of Canadian Publications 

The Canadian press, originatingjust over two hundred 
years ago, inherited journaHstic traditions from both 
Britain and the United States, and in many respects 
mirrors the evolution toward press freedom south of the 
border. Three significant factors, however, serve to 
distinguish Canadian press history from that of the 
United States. First, the introduction of the printing 
press into Canada trailed more than one hundred years 
behind its introduction south of the border; second, the 
tone of Canadian journalism has been generally more 
practical, moralistic, and subdued, and less sensational 
than southern counterparts; and third, Canadian 
colonial governors tended in many cases to encourage 
the establishment of printing presses rather than outlaw 
or discourage them in the early years of printing. As to 
whether there has been more or less censorship of the 
press in Canada, there is considerable divergence of 
opinion. The divergence appears to be a function of 
whether the historian considers Canadian press history 
as a whole,' or, like W. H. Kesterton, the most notable 
among the very few historians devoting attention to the 
Canadian press, divides Canadian press history into 
stages each marked by a differing degree of press 

Printing began in Eastern Canada in 1752, and just 
one hundred years ago in the West and North. Printing 
made slow progress across Canada owing to the lack of 
transportation and communication routes required for 
the shipment of supplies and the collection of news. 
Until the later years of the eighteenth century there was 
no internal postal service, and when first established it 
was restricted to the Atlantic seaboard settlements. 
Further, settlements were small with few subscribers to 
support a newspaper. All these factors conspired to 
make printing a risky venture in Canada, and thus 
many of the first newspapers were shortlived. 

Government patronage was almost a prerequisite of 
continued business and success. The printer became, in 
essence, the official King's Printer with contracts to 
print laws, proclamations, public notices, and speeches 
in addition to a small salary. At the same time, the 
King's Printer could do job-printing, issue a newspaper 
and issue any other products from his press. For 

numerous early newspapers, withdrawal of government 
contracts meant financial ruin and therefore provided 
the colonial government with a convenient and 
expedient, yet indirect, means of censorship. The case of 
Canada's first newspaper is a good example of indirect 
government control of the press. 

The first Canadian press was established in Halifax m 
1751 by two New Englanders, Bartholomew Green and 
John Bushell. From this press the first number of the 
Halifax Gazette was issued on March 23, 1752.^ The 
Gazette, a weekly, half-page, printed in two columns on 
both sides, was continued after 1761 with government 
patronage by Anthony Henry. Henry disapproved of 
the Stamp Act of 1765 and issued some numbers of the 
Gazette with "black rules and mourning borders, or 
such devices as skull and cross-bones"'* instead of the 
required stamp to express his opposition. The 
government withdrew its subsidy and gave it to Henry's 
newly established rival, and The Gazette ceased 

More direct means of government censorship were 
also exercised. John Ryan and William Lewis, who 
established The Royal St. John's Gazette and Nova 
Scotia Intelligencer in 1783. were arrested and received 
stiff fines for printing criticisms of the provincial and 
municipal governments."" John Howe, publisher of the 
Halifax Journal beginning in 1780, son of the famous 
American, Joseph Howe, and later to become 
Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, successfully 
defended himself against libel charges for condemning 
the police and magistrates in his paper.^ Fleury Mesplei. 
the first Montreal printer, was the only other publisher 
on record in this period to be jailed for printing material 
critical of colonial government. Mesplet was sent by 
Benjamin Franklin in 1775 to Montreal to print propa- 
ganda designed to persuade the inhabitants of Lower 
Canada to join the United States. When Mesplet 
arrived, American troops were withdrawing and, 
lacking finances to return home, the French printer 
remained in Montreal. Before 1777 most of Mesplet's 
printing consisted of religious tracts, devotionals. 
religious emblems and other material for the church. 
However, Mesplet printed an account by M. Saint Luc 


de la Corne of the author's shipwreck off Cape Breton 
in 1761. Although this particular publication had wide 
appeal, it was apparently exceptional in content for this 

. . . such contemporary accounts of adventure are extremely 
rare among early Canadian imprints. One looks in vain for 
tales of Indian captivity or narratives relating the exploits of 
fur traders. Such narratives, if written, never found their way 
into print.' 

Mesplet established his Gazette du Commerce et 
Litteraire on June 3, 1778. It is described as 
"inoffensively dull and respectable," including essays, 
anecdotes, correspondence, verse, and advertisements. 
Valentin Jautard, the editor, began including attacks on 
local judges which Governor Haldimand reacted to by 
requiring all copy to be submitted to an official censor 
prior to publication for the duration of the American 
War. Jautard persisted in his attacks on the adminis- 
tration of justice in the absence of the censor, and 
subsequently Mesplet and Jautard were jailed in 1779. 
Escaping from prison in 1782, Mesplet returned to 
Montreal, leased back his confiscated press, and started 
The Montreal Gazette: Gazette de Montreal along the 
same lines as the former Gazette du Commerce et 
Litteraire. The Montreal Gazette, though changing 
hands many times, continues to this day. 

Canadian historian H. P. Gundy suggests that these 
cases of government censorship of the early Canadian 
press were the exception and not the rule. The 
Canadian press succeeded in performing a twofold 
function of publicizing government decisions and 
expressing public opinion. Gundy explains that 
Governor Haldimand's censorship of La Gazette du 
Commerce et Litteraire and silencing of Mesplet and 
Jautard were necessary only for security reasons during 
wartime. Gundy describes the earliest Canadian 
printers as 

. . . honest, law-abiding and patriotic, and if at times, they 
appear to us to have been moralistic and hortatory, they were 
genuinely concerned to raise the intellectual and cultural level 
of the colonial and pioneer society which they served.* 

More typical of the relationship between printer and 
colonial government officials. Gundy suggests, are 
Louis Roy's Upper Canada Gazette or American Oracle 
(1793-1794), Stephen Miles's Kingston Gazette (1810- 
1818) and William Brown and Thomas Gilmore's 
Quebec Gazette {\1M-\1%9). Lieutenant-Governor John 
Graves Simcoe, considering "a printer . . . indispensably 
necessary"^ for Upper Canada persuaded Roy to set up 
the first press in Upper Canada at Newark. Roy 
resigned after only a year and was succeeded by similar 
government printers first in Newark and then in York, 
the new capital. In addition to legislative acts, speeches 
and proclamations, all printers published a newspaper 
to act as an instrument of public opinion. Miles's 
Kingston Gazette was published independently of 
government support and contract. The Gazette, like 
most Canadian papers of the period, contained adver- 

tising, stale European news, extracts from American 
papers, government notices, familiar essays, corre- 
spondence and some local news. Unlike the American 
press, news of naval and land battles of the War of 1 8 1 2 
were inconspicuously displayed on the inside pages. 
Brown and Gilmore's Quebec Gazette, the second 
newspaper to be published in Canada, soon became a 
quasi-governmental organ by receiving salaries and 
printing contracts. However, this did not preclude the 
expression of anti-government sentiment in the pages of 
the Gazette and Brown himself denies ever being subject 
to censorship."' Government and public service were 
successfully separated. For example, Brown and 
Gilmore printed The Quebec Act for the government in 
1774 while the pages of the Gazette expressed the 
widespread English dissatisfaction with the leniency of 
the Act. 

In the first issue of the Quebec Gazette, Brown and 
Gilmore wrote: 

Our intentions to please the Whole, without offence to any 
individual, will be better evinced by our practice than by 
writing volumes on this subject. This one thing we beg to be 
SCANDAL, will never find a place in this PAPER." 

In Canada, the first printing done in any community 
was usually a broadside-style news sheet, with multi- 
page newspapers, pamphlets, and books coming later. 
News publications concentrated for the most part on 
providing information on the arrival of boats from 
England or Boston, the availability of supplies, and 
government decisions. Devoted to the practical, these 
publications rarely included the fictional or the sensa- 
tional. Gundy's description of the products of the early 
Canadian press is apt. 

No gems of hterature issued from the early press. In pioneer 
times there was scant leisure for cultivating the literary graces. 
The products of the press served a practical purpose - tracts 
for religious and educational use, legal compendia for officers 
of the law, government releases for public information, anti- 
government propaganda for the malcontents, almanacs for the 
common man. For recreational reading there was little but 
sermons on the one hand, accounts of public executions on the 

The early press was limited by its inability to procure 
news which would make its issues attractive and inter- 
esting. The Upper Canada Gazette, like many of its 
contemporaries, depended upon New York papers for 
British and foreign news and ignored local news. 

The whipping or branding of a criminal, according to the 
custom of those days, would be mentioned, but the public 
meetings, although duly announced, received no attention, and 
there was no discu.ssion of public movements.'' 

While Gundy asserts that the Canadian press has 
always been "free," W. H. Kesterton, in a more compre- 
hensive study of Canadian journalism, finds an 
evolution in both the struggle for, and the actualization 
of, the "freedom of the press" in Canada. Kesterton 
distinguishes four periods in this evolution, each with 


characteristic patterns of ownership, control, and organ- 
ization of the press. 

In the first stage, 1752 to 1807, the press is a branch of 
the government for the most part and indirect 
censorship by government officials is widespread. 
Unlike the pioneer press in the United States, licensing 
of the press was not utilized as the means of control. 
Subservience of the Canadian pioneer press was 
ensured by a colonial government which held the 
financial reins and therefore dictated the success or ruin 
of each printer. The pioneer news sheets of the eastern 
provinces are described by Kesterton as: 

pallid, neutral, harmless sheet[s] without any vital role in the 
social and political life of the community.''' 

Thus, from 1752 to 1807, the Canadian press was 
innocuous, accepting its subservient role under the 
authoritarian colonial government and avoiding 
comment on figures of authority and politics. 

As the population and literacy increased, the press 
gained its independence, relying upon advertising and 
subscription fees rather than government patronage. 
Government censorship became dependent upon the 
levying of fines and the dispensing of jail sentences. Yet, 
by the mid-nineteenth century, even this indirect means 
of censorship had been abandoned. 

The second stage of the press, delineated by 
Kesterton as occupying the years from 1807 to 1858, 
was dominated by the entrepreneurial editor, 
independent of government and outspoken in political 
issues.'^ The colonial government persisted in its 
attempts to control the press by means of jailings and 
stiff fines but as the press waged its war for responsible 
government and won, the major obstacles to press 
freedom were overcome in the process. 

The paradox of nineteenth-century journalism was 
that the government attempted to censor libel against its 
officials and policies, but was blind to the licentious 
treatment by the press of individuals outside the 
government.'^ Codes of ethics developed by the 
industry in later periods finally corrected the problems 
caused by the proliferation of newspapers used as 
personal weapons of their editors. Kesterton describes 
the nineteenth-century editor as "guilty of circumlocu- 
tions, discursiveness, sometimes pretentiousness and 
vituperative attacks on political opponents." While the 
press was winning freedom from government censor- 
ship, the political partisanship of the editor determined 
what was fit to print. 

While politics certainly dominated the newspapers 
from 1807 to 1858, this was by no means the extent of 
their content. A report of the Canadian Press Associ- 
ation is illuminating in this regard in an examination of 
the Toronto Globe's content: 

It is a mistake to suppose the Globe owed its pre-eminence to 
its politics. It was due to its excellence as a purveyor of news. It 
recorded everything of public interest and did so promptly. 
There was a trial of a physician at Cobourg for murder. A 
reporter was sent who telegraphed his notes, which meant 

heavy cost. In collecting news the Globe far outdistanced the 
two other papers, [the Colonisl and Leader], and even people 
who did not like its politics read it first. '^ 

The first Canadian magazines inherited the pioneer 
newspaper penchant for .serious and "uplift" material 
that Gundy noted but, translated into fiction, this 
formula failed. The magazine field in Canada during the 
nineteenth century was severely limited in sharp 
contrast to United States magazine publications. The 
majority of Canadian magazines were very serious 
ventures, solemn and intent upon meeting the literary 
needs of the nation. Most of these publications were 
short-lived. Subscribers rarely paid their fees and 
competition from British and U.S. magazines steadily 
increased. Most of the Canadian magazines were 
literary monthlies containing poetry, history, politics, 
and fiction primarily by native Canadian writers. Some 
of these were established expressly to combat the impor- 
tation of "light literature" from the United States such 
as Barker's Canadian Magazine, established in 1846 only 
to cease publication the following year.'* 

By the later years of the nineteenth century. 
Canadian journalism had divorced itself from the 
necessity of moral purpose. Canadian journalist 
Frederic Robson saluted this trend but was discouraged 
by the emerging theme in Canadian journalism which 
he described: 

Newspapers are probably doing more good now through an 
intelligent supervision of news matter, from a knowledge of 
what the people want, than by preaching morality in every item 
of the police report. . . . The 'metropolitan idea' is emerging so 
that the news of the day is given without additional moral 
deductions. ... In every town and village of Canada may be 
found two papers of opposing political views, and during 
elections the talk of their space and brains is taken up with 
stories of the enemy, which the writers well know are the 
output of misjudgment and childish nagging.''* 

Like its counterpart in the United States, the Canadian 
press of this period was a political tool in many cases: 
however, unlike the U.S. press, sensationalism was not 
exploited to a great extent. Robson describes Canadian 
journalism as the opposite of American "yellow 
journalism." Canadians merely recite the "bald fact" or 
catalogue events "that show humanity going off at a 
violent tangent." Robson does not favour "canary- 
coloured journalism" for Canada but urges that 
attention be given to impressionism and human interest. 
"- stuff that pulsates."-*' 

The third period in the evolution of the Canadian 
press (1858-1900) was characterized by the increase in 
strength and number of the Eastern press, and the 
pioneering of the press in the Western and Northern 
parts of Canada. The press moved west with the settlers 
attracted by the 1852 Pacific Gold Rush, the 
Homestead Act ( 1 872), the building of the cpr in the 
1880s and the 1897-1905 Yukon Gold Rush. 
Meanwhile, in Eastern Canada, the daily newspaper 
began to increase in importance and in number in 


response to more favourable postal rates, a growing 
literate population, and increased profits. 

Most newspapers retained the flavour of violent 
political partisanship characteristic of the earlier period. 
Frequently interspersed with "objective" news 
reporting, libel was heaped upon political opponents 
and careless libel that would be in "contempt of court" 
today took the form of subjective comments upon the 
facts of a case before the courts. A typical account of a 
murder is found in the Yarmouth Tribune of August 25, 
1875, which read: 

A fearful murder was committed here last night. David 
Robbins, fifty five years of age, shot his wife, Emmeline Chute, 
beat out her brains with a mallet, set fire to her bed and fled to 
the woods. The commun.ty is in a great state of excitement. An 
officer, with a posse of men, went in pursuit today. 

The murder was evidently premeditated. ... He has been ill- 
treating his wife for a long time. He was not given to drink but 
was an innate fiend. ^' 

Lack of competition among newspapers in the earlier 
periods yielded an innocuous press, its issues dull in 
appearance. Increased competition and technical 
innovations from 1858 to 1900 spurred the production 
of better-looking papers. With the invention of the 
cross-ruled screen in 1886, an efficient method of photo- 
production was discovered to replace wood engraving 
and chalk plate methods. ^^ However, the new process 
was not widely adopted until well after 1900 because of 
a strong prejudice against pictures as sensational 
devices. ■^^ 

The first journalism organization, the Canadian Press 
Association, was established in Kingston, Ontario, in 
1859. The Association was "Canadian" in name only; 
until the second decade of the twentieth century it 
remained principally an Ontario organization. William 
Gillespy, editor-owner of the Hamilton Spectator, was 
elected the first president. The cpa led a movement to 
abolish postage on newspapers, agitated for improve- 
ments in libel laws, fought newspaper combines, and 
paid considerable attention to elevating the tone of the 
Canadian press and improving the ethics of handling 
patent-medicine advertising. 

Advertising of questionable products under deceptive 
guises proliferated during the nineteenth century. 
Potentially harmful drugs were extolled, devices for 
procuring abortion were off'ered for sale, and extrav- 
agant sales pitches were frequent. The cpa launched a 
campaign against this type of advertising in the early 
years of the twentieth century and succeeded in elimi- 
nating the worst offences. At the 191 1 annual meeting 
an appeal was made to the publishers of Canada to 
eliminate "fake fraudulent and off'ensive" advertising 
from their pages. ^"^ The advertising manager of 
Burroughs Adding Machine Co. in Detroit claimed 
such advertising had a serious, detrimental eff'ect upon 
subscribers' attitudes toward the newspaper carrying it. 
E. St. Elmo Lewis declared: 

The fact is that the patent medicme advertiser, the graft mining 

advertiser and the faker generally is the shrewdest buyer of 
space. He tries to get into the most influential pubhcations 
because he knows they have more to sell than the paper that 
has no influence.^^ 

At the 1912 annual meeting, the cpa prepared a set of 
guidelines to aid pubhshers in editing advertising copy 
to which all members assented. The cpa's standards for 
censoring advertising went beyond the list prohibited 
under the Criminal Code of Canada and suggested a 
further list of objectionable and undesirable advertising 
which should not be accepted. Advertising was again a 
major source of concern at the cpa's 1913 annual 
meeting where James Schermerhorn, publisher of the 
Detroit Times, presented an address entitled, "Who 
makes fraudulent advertising effective?" Schermerhorn 
believed that the developing of the cpa's advertising 
code and other moves by the industry signalled an end 
to a "cycle of excessive commercialism" and continued: 

The challenge of the present day to the aspiring and 
resourceful is not to make a great fortune but to get it without 
stain. That the publication of indecent and deceptive adver- 
tising is unworthy of a noble profession is no longer debatable. 
Who makes advertising deception efl!"ective? Who but the 
publisher. Let me assure you that a daily newspaper launched 
and developed along the line of ethical policy I have been 
discussing is both possible and workable. Also that it is quite as 
simple to determine without delay whether an advertisement is 
desirable as it is to ascertain whether the advertiser's credit is 
good or whether a piece of news is an off^ence against a citizen's 
good name.^* 

During the last years of the nineteenth century, 
Canadian libel laws were revised. The Criminal Code of 
Canada of 1892 repealed the 1865 Libel Act to furnish 
the core of present criminal law provisions. In addition, 
each of the provinces passed legislation to deal with 
newspapers and libel within their borders. Ontario 
passed its Libel Act in 1882; it was revised in 1897, and 
is now incorporated in the Revised Statutes of 1970. 
The new statutes provided a higher degree of certainty 
within the industry and contributed significantly to 
increasing responsibihty of the press to its public.^^ 

Characteristic of the fourth press period were 
concerns of excessive commercialism and press parti- 
sanship. Kesterton notes that changes in the press 
during the twentieth century were qualitative rather 
than quantitative. It was the period of centralization 
and consolidation leading to the development of the 
one newspaper town. Today there are fewer newspapers 
than existed m 1903, and since the Davey Committee 
Report Canadians have become aware of the dangers 
inherent in the phenomenon of press centralization. Yet 
Kesterton notes that a reduction in the number of 
newspapers has actually contributed to qualitative 
improvement of those that have survived. 

An accidental benefit to a situation lacking the cut throat 
competition of local daily against local daily is that it 
discourages the practice of .sensationalizing the news in order 
to gain readers. The frantic "beat" and meretricious "scoop" 


have become far less frequent now that the single newspaper 
city has become commonplace. 

The result has been to make journalism more 
responsible.-*^ However, reduction of sensationalism was 
not entirely by chance. The cpa denounced the "yellow 
journalism" predominant in the United States in the 
early years of the twentieth century and its members 
were expected to refrain from such "irresponsible" 
practices. Press partisanship and commercialism 
received considerable attention at the Association's 
annual meetings. In 1910, Colonel Watterson, editor of 
the 0;wr/VryoMrrta/ of Louisville, Kentucky, and "the 
last great personal editor on the American continent" 
addressed the cpa. Watterson noted a transition from 
personal to impersonal journalism and expressed the 
prevailing hope that sensationalism would be 
abandoned under the new circumstances. 

The old order of personal journalism, with its ideas of 
individual responsibility, often mere egotism and vanity, has 
passed away. The new order of impersonal journalism, with its 
ideas of commercial honour and of public obligation, has not 
quite adjusted itself as yet to its enlarged habitation and richer 

We hear a deal about yellow journalism. It is much like the pot 
calling the kettle black. Offences against decency are more or 
less relative and qualified. More and more will newspaper 
owners and makers discover that integrity and cleanliness pay 
the best dividends. The scandalmonger will in time be 
relegated to the category of the unprosperous as well as the 
disreputable and the detective be driven out of the newspaper 
service, where he should have no place, to the company of the 
police where he alone belongs. 

The rationale of the day's doings rendered with good sense and 
in good faith by a self-respecting, conscientious writer, will 
always command attention and be worth its space; and as this 
is done with power or charm will it rank in drawing and selling 
with the news features. Success may be obtained without it, but 
not distinction and influence.'^ 

Two years later, at the 1912 annual meeting, John R. 
Bone, president-elect of the Toronto Daily Star, 
attempted to deal with some of the criticisms levelled at 
the Canadian newspapers. Bone regarded the charges of 
press sensationalism in Canada to be ill-founded unless 
there was something "inherently evil about black type" 
itself. Very little that could be classified as "untruthful" 
and "indecent" sensationalism could be found in 
Canada, Bone asserted. However, the Canadian press 
was guilty to some extent of inaccuracy which tended to 
undermine public confidence and was "almost as 
dangerous as deliberate faking" of news. Bone also 
considered press partisanship a serious problem 
emerging within the newspaper industry: 

There is here, of course, a serious danger, a danger that is 
greater now than ever before on account of the increased 
capital required to finance a newspaper. It is a serious consid- 
eration because I think it is axiomatic that no newspaper can 
rise higher than its proprietor, and the salvation of our press 
depends on its control remaining in the hands of high-minded, 
public-spirited citizens. . . . No newspaper can have any lasting 

infiucnce unless it is permeated with absolute sincerity. It is 
easier for a newspaper to lead a double life than it is for an 

While the "venomous scurrility" of personal attacks 
caused by press partisanship and press sensationalism 
have lost their dominant role in modern newspapers, 
newspapers are now widely criticized for their generally 
innocuous and inoffensive character and their failure to 
take a stand on vital public issues. Robert Fulford, 
while Book Editor of the Toronto Daily Star, described 
Canadian newspapers as "Victorian productfs]. turned 
out in a modern setting" and suggested: 

... if a foreigner, never having visited Canada, were to spend a 
few weeks reading all of our papers, he would emerge with a 
picture of a country which is dull. smug, and provincial. This is 
not the Canada that I know; but it is the Canada which our 
press reflects. My own observation is that there is no Canadian 
community which is as dull as the newspapers it reads, in 
general, I beheve, English Canadian newspapers follow rather 
than lead their readers. . . . One of the central reasons for this is 
the built-in bias of the press ... in favour of authority.^' 

Numerous critics are of the opinion that the pioneer 
subservience to authority and the political party bias of 
the second and third press periods has been replaced by 
a "free press" which remains equally ineffective and 
considerably more innocuous. 

Content of the twentieth-century Canadian press is 
considered less sensational than American counterparts. 
D. L. B. Hamlin, considering the relationship between 
the press and its pubhc, concludes: 

We seem to feel, in a typically Canadian fashion, that our 
papers should be better than they are. But in the same breath 
we congratulate ourselves that they are not as bad as the worst 
examples of yellow journalism in other countries, usually the 
United States.^^ 

In support, Kesterton has noted a unique trend whereby 
there is a high correlation between nearness of a 
disaster, calamity, or act of violence and the promi- 
nence and space devoted to its report in Canadian 
newspapers. Likewise, such news which directly affects 
or concerns its readers is emphasized above news of 
merely human interest value. Thus, between 1901 and 
1914, the Quebec bridge collapse, the Regina cyclone, 
the sinking of the Titanic and the assassination of 
Archduke Ferdinand received more press coverage than 
did violent Negro lynchings, and the exploits of Jack 
the Ripper and Buffalo Bill.^^ 

Between 1914 and 1918, events of the war dominated 
press content. War reports spared little detail in 
recording the horrifying and intense violence. While the 
newspapers reported on violence, they were also the 
central figures in violent incidents initiated by the 
divisive conscription issue. French-Canadian papers 
threatened either secession or revolution, mobs 
dynamited newspaper ofllices and stoned their windows. 

The Twenties, often described as "the carefree age." 
was the decade of rum-running and gang warfare, and 
the newspapers recorded "the wave of crime and 


outlawry which is sweeping over the American conti- 
nent, particularly in the United States."^'' 

Many events were sensational rather than of long-term conse- 
quence. The Black Sox baseball fix, the murder of Bobby 
Franks by Loeb and Leopold, the Teapot Dome scandal, the 
Hall-Mills murder trial, the lynching of American negroes, the 
activities of the Ku Klux Klan, the prolonged ordeal of Sacco 
and Vanzetti before their execution in 1927, the ruthless 
lawlessness of Al Capone, the St. Valentine's Day massacre, 
and Sing Sing electric chair deaths of Mrs. Ruth Snyder and 
Judd Gray, were discreditable American events reported in 
Canadian newspapers. Some comparable Canadian stories 
given coverage were the assassination of Peter Veregin, the 
disappearance of Ambrose Small, the failure of the Home 
Bank, the murderous career and execution of the Winnipeg 
Strangler, and the "I'm Alone" affair." 

During the 1930's, crime and violence were characteris- 
tically represented in the Canadian press: 

The kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, the trial and execution 
of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the death of John DilUnger, the 
plane crash deaths of Will Rogers, Wiley Post and Knute 
Rockne, the crash of the Hindenburg and R 101, the manhunt 
for the "Mad Trapper" of the Canadian North, the impris- 
onment of Al Capone, the Ace Bailey hockey injury, the assas- 
sinations of Huey Long, Mayor Cermak of Chicago, the prime 
minister of Japan, the president of Peru, Chancellor DoUfuss of 
Austria, King Alexander of Yugoslavia and Finance Minister 
Barthou of France, the misdeeds of Mayor James Walker of 
New York City, the Morro Castle and Moose River Mine 
disasters, the kidnapping of John Labatt, and the parole and 
violent death of Red Ryan, were starthng events of the decade. 

But the events that pointed the way most clearly to a new era 
in world history took place outside of North America. Such 
events were recorded by the world press, including that of 
Canada. They included the Sino-Japanese War, Allied evacu- 
ation of the Rhineland, Oxford Group activities, the rise of the 
Nazi party, the death of Hindenburg and Hitler's ascent to 
power, Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia, the Spanish Civil 
War, Hitler's seizure of Austria, the Polish Corridor dispute, 
and the Munich Pact which was supposed to guarantee "peace 
in our time."^* 

Again during the Second World War, press accounts of 
violence were provided in graphic detail. The newspa- 
pers, now with more efficient newsgathering services, 
"recorded the battles and campaigns in overwhelming 

1940 has been set as the date from which serious 
treatment of the news definitely began to dominate over 
the sensational in both Canada and the United States. 
However, Stuart Keate, publisher of The Victoria Daily 
Times, notes that the Canadian press is accused of 
sensational tactics even today; an accusation which he 

To those who cry sensationalism in the press, I would suggest 
that there are more bodies strewn around in one hour of "The 
Untouchables" than you'll find in a week's newspapers. It has 
been estimated that television is 85 per cent entertainment and 
15 per cent information, newspapers just the reverse.^* 

Keate considers the most serious pressure exerted on 
the press to be the threat of censorship. Except during 


wartime, Canada has enjoyed a large degree of press 
freedom during the twentieth century. In times of peace, 
attempts to control the content of the press have 
emanated primarily from local groups or provincial 
governments with a vigilant press and the federal 
government successfully defeating content controls. 

Two major incidents of attempted press censorship 
stand out in Canadian history in which provincial legis- 
lation seeking to muzzle the press has been overcome by 
a nationally united press effort and federal government 
sympathies. Less often, and on a much smaller scale, 
moralists have assaulted the press in their earnest belief 
that they are helping society by suppressing the 
unpleasant truth reported by the press. ^^ 

The government of Alberta sought to muzzle the 
press when, in 1935, William Aberhart's Social Credit 
party succeeded the United Farmers and formed the 
provincial government of Alberta. Official parlia- 
mentary opposition was virtually non-existent, and for 
this reason the press adopted the critical role. Constant 
criticism of Aberhart and his economic policies 
provoked the premier into introducing "An Act to 
Ensure the Publication of Accurate News and 
Information" which came to be called the "gag law." 
Aberhart professed the Act would "restore Freedom [of 
the press] from the clutches of financial and political 
organizations." Under J. Imrie of The Edmonton 
Journal, the press united to fight the bill, and the cpa 
and the cdna lent support. Even government opposition 
was strong. Lieutenant Governor, J. C. Bowen, refused 
to assent to the bill and the federal government referred 
Aberhart's legislation to the Supreme Court of Canada 
for a constitutionality ruling. When the Supreme Court 
declared the bill to be ultra vires, Aberhart appealed to 
the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Privy 
Council decision upheld that of Chief Justice Davis, 
who wrote: 

The statute [British North America Act] contemplates a 
parliament working under the influence of public opinion and 
public discussion. There can be no controversy that such insti- 
tutions derive their efficacy from the free public discussion of 
affairs, from criticism and answer and counter-criticism, from 
attack upon policy and administration and defence and 
counter-attack; from the freest and fullest analysis and exami- 
nation from every point of view of political proposals. . . . The 
right of public discussion is, of course, subject to legal restric- 
tions; those based upon considerations of decency and public 
order, and others conceived for the protection of various 
private and public interests with which, for example, the laws 
of defamation and sedition are concerned. In a word, freedom 
of discussion means, to quote the words of Lord Wright in 
James v Commonwealth (1936 A.C. at p. 627), 'freedom 
governed by law.' Even within its legal limits, it is liable to 
abuse and grave abuse, and such abuse is constantly 
exemplified before our eyes; but it is axiomatic that the 
practice of this right of free public discussion of public affairs, 
notwithstanding its incidental mischiefs, is the breath of life for 
parliamentary institutions.'"' 

While Aberhart's case was in the Supreme Court, a libel 
case seemed to prove that existing Canadian laws were 


adequate protection against public abuse without 
Aberhart's new legislation. Two Social Crediters, G. F. 
Powell and J. 1-. Unwin, produced and distributed a 
pamphlet entitled "Bankers' Toadies" containing the 
following statement: 

my child, you should never say hard or unkind things about 
Bankers' Toadies. God made Bankers' Toadies, just as he 
made snakes, slugs, snails and other creepy-crawly, treacherous 
and poisonous things. Nevertherefore, abuse them -just exter- 
minate them, 

and to prevent all evasion 

Demand the Result you want 

$25.00 a month 

and a lower cost to live.'" 

On the opposite side of the pamphlet was printed the 
names of nine prominent Edmonton businessmen. 
Powell and Unwin were charged with counselling to 
murder, seditious libel, and defamatory libel. Only the 
last charge held and the former offender was sentenced 
to six months in jail and then deportation while the 
latter received three months' imprisonment. 

The second attempt to muzzle the press originated 
during the "red scare" following World War I but 
culminated in the Padlock Law in Quebec under the 
Duplessis government. Following the Winnipeg strike 
of 1919, Arthur Meighen's Conservative government 
passed Section 98 of the Criminal Code which provided 
severe penalties for persons convicted of sedition, publi- 
cation of seditious material, and unlawful association. 
This section was invoked several times against 
suspected Communists between 1930 and 1935, but was 
highly unpopular legislation and was repealed under the 
Liberal government in 1936. 

Premier Duplessis of Quebec, believing the repeal of 
Section 98 left Canada exposed to the dangerous 
menace of communism, designed "An Act to Protect 
the Province against Communist Propaganda." The Act 
gave the Quebec Attorney General power to close down 
any establishment suspected of harbouring communist 
activities and made it illegal to publish, or distribute 
"any newspaper, pamphlet, circular, document, or 
writing whatsoever propagating or tending to propagate 
communism or bolshevism.'"'^ Honourable T. J. 
Coonan, minister without portfolio in the Duplessis 
government, stated the law was designed to deal with 
"thousands and thousands of people who are commu- 
nists without being aware of it."''^ The Padlock Law 
gave the provincial government the authority to declare 
persons as communists or bolsheviks and the Attorney- 
General, who happened to be Duplessis, became 
"policeman, prosecutor, judge, sheriff and hangman."** 
Between 1936 and 1939, the Act was invoked thirteen 
times and with Duplessis' return to power, it was 
invoked again in 1944, 1948, and 1950. Finally in 1957 
the Supreme Court of Canada ruled it unconstitutional. 

Today, laws dealing with the press are those of 
defamatory libel, contempt of court, obscenity, 
blasphemy, sedition and the Defence of Canada 

Regulations under the War Measures Act. The laws of 
libel, designed to protect the citizen from abuse by the 
press, and those dealing with contempt of court, 
designed to ensure fair trials for those before the courts, 
are the most widely used today. Prohibitions agamst 
violence are included under obscenity regulations. An 
obscene publication is "any publication, a dominant 
characteristic of which is undue exploitation of sex or of 
sex and any one or more of the following subjects, 
namely, crime, horror, cruelty and violence." In 
addition. Tariff Regulation 1201 bars "treasonable or 
seditious or indecent literature" from entry into 
Canada. Under "indecent" fall any publications exces- 
sively dealing with crime, horror, cruelty and violence. 
On the whole, there have been few cases of rigid appli- 
cation of the obscenity laws in Canada because of the 
vagueness of definition of the prohibited literature.'*^ 
Likewise, regulations dealing with blasphemy and 
sedition have lain dormant. 

Under wartime conditions, restraints on the "freedom 
of the press" in Canada, as in most countries, have been 
stronger, more arbitrary and authoritarian. Prior to the 
First World War, the inefficiency of communications 
facilities were effective in themselves in guarding 
military secrets. Since World War L censorship 
machinery has evolved from a voluntary, self-imposed 
system to a highly coordinated government-imposed 

During the First World War, Lieutenant Colonel 
Ernest Chambers, Chief Press Censor of Canada, and a 
small staff of newspaper men worked on amicable terms 
with editors and publishers, suggesting information 
useful to the enemy, threatening security of the armed 
forces and the security of the Canadian people which 
should not be published. Although Orders-in-Council 
authorized the Postmaster General to prohibit 
newspapers from the mails (Nov. 16, 1914), made it a 
crime to import or publish or possess newspapers in 
foreign languages (Oct. 1, 1918), and a regulation of 
June 10, 1915, made press censorship compulsory and 
allowed for the search of any printing house by 
government officials, each editor, in a sense, was his 
own censor, the official censor acting largely in an 
advisory capacity; the powers outlined in the regula- 
tions were never exercised."*^ 

When the Second World War broke out. censorship 
was again, in theory, self-imposed but Gillis Purcell. in 
an exhaustive analysis of wartime press censorship, calls 
"voluntary censorship" deceptive. 

It is a gracious gesture to the press and it is comforting to the 
public to feel that in this freedom-loving democracy editors are 
their own censors, but it is all a sham and a delusion. The press 
can and does at times influence the judgment of the censors in 
situations that are free from political repercussions, but the 
moment the political fortunes of a government are imperilled, 
the censor no longer sits in the saddle: it is the government that 
rides. It will be so with any government in any circumstances if 
the exigency is sufficientlv urgent.''^ 


The Defence of Canada Regulations were invoked on 
September 3. 1939, and were derived from the authority 
of the War Measures Act. This remains the sole legal 
tool of censorship during emergencies today. Regula- 
tions provided for fines, imprisonment, and printing 
suspension as penalties for the publication of news or 
comment considered dangerous and not cleared by a 
censor prior to printing. Penalties were only invoked 
through court action however. Although Regulation 15 
gave the Secretary of State powers of prior censorship, 
these were never used. 

Wartime censorship caused considerable concern 
among newspaper editors, and the cdna"*^ appointed a 
Freedom of the Press Committee in 1944 to discuss 
various aspects of the subject. A primary objective of 
the Committee was to secure an amendment to the 
British North America Act which would guarantee 
press freedom.'*'' Prime Minister King expressed his 
opinion that no formal guarantee was necessary for the 
maintenance of press freedom in Canada since freedom 
was strongly embedded. The Committee persisted in its 
proposals of amendment, pointing out a number of 
instances to support its contention that the press was 
not as secure as it appeared on the surface. When the 
House of Commons Select Committee on Human 
Rights was set up in 1948, the cdna prepared a detailed 
brief for presentation to prove the need for a statutory 
guarantee of freedom of the press. The cdna was partic- 
ularly concerned with "the probability that despotic 
regulation of the medium of radio might ultimately 
extend to the sphere of the press. "^° Despite wide circu- 
lation of its brief and its energetic determination, the 
CDNA did not succeed in securing a formal guarantee of 
press freedom in Canada. 

In reaction to the Davey Committee's detailed 
analysis of the Canadian press, the editor of The Ottawa 
Journal, Norman Smith, expressed the current view of 
the appropriate relationship between the press and the 

The public has a right to take a good hard look at the press 
from time to time. But I am convinced that governments 
should leave the running of the press to the press. If some of us 
are making more money than is good for us, tax us. If we gang 
up or monopolize against the public interest, crack down. If we 
are seditious or libellous or otherwise unlawful, hale us into 
court. But as to what we put in our papers good, bad, 
indecent, or incomplete - let the public be the judge. Men of 
politics shouldn't shape the press. Not if it is to be free.*' 

A Note on Canadian Fiction: Survival 

Canadian fiction has not generally been considered a 
violent fiction and thus, attempts to control violent 
content have been restricted, for the most part, to the 
duties of customs officials, barring the importation of 
United States products. .Margaret Atwood's thematic 
analysis of Canadian literature, entitled Survival, 
prompts a re-examination of Canadian literature. She 
suggests that violence is as dominant in Canadian as in 
American literature, though the nature of the violence is 

quite different. While violence in American fiction is 
that of man against man, Canadians draw their murder 
weapons from nature in the form of snow, water, or 
"death by bushing."" Death at the hands of nature is 
not natural or accidental death as it is portrayed in 
Canadian literature, but there is something in nature 
which actually kills the individual, says Atwood.^^ E. J. 
Pratt's treatment of the sinking of the Titanic, causing 
the drowning deaths of most of its passengers, is a 
typical Canadian nature killing. 

Even Canadian animal stories are tragic in 
comparison to U.S. examples. American animal stories 
usually celebrate the trapping of an animal and are told 
from the hunter's viewpoint while Canadian authors 
write from the animal's point of view. Margaret Atwood 
relates her childhood reactions to Canadian animal 
stories as more emotionally upsetting than American 
horror comics of the forties because the Canadian 
products were truer to reality. 

. . . after hours we read stacks of Captain Marvel, Plastic Man 
and Batman comic books, an activity delightfully enhanced by 
the disapproval of our elders. However, someone had given us 
Charles G. D. Roberts' Kings in Exile for Christmas, and I 
snivelled my way quickly through these heart-wrenching 
stories of animals caged, trapped and tormented. That was 
followed by Ernest Thompson Seton's Wild Animals I Have 
Known, if anything more upsetting because the animals were 
more actual - they lived in forests, not circuses - and their 
deaths more mundane: the deaths, not of tigers, but of 
rabbits.. . . I wasjust learning what to expect: in comic books 
and things like Alice in Wonderland ox Conan Doyle's The Lost 
World, you got rescued or you returned from the world of 
dangers to a cozy safe domestic one; in Seton and Roberts, 
because the world of dangers was the same as the real world, 
you didn't. But when in high school I encountered - again as a 
Christmas present - something labelled more explicitly as 
Canadian Literature, the Robert Weaver and Helen James 
anthology, Canadian Short Stories, I wasn't surprised. There 
they were again, those animals on the run, most of them in 
human clothing this time, and those humans up against it; here 
was the slight mistake that led to disaster, here was the fatal 
accident: this was a world of frozen corpses, dead gophers, 
snow, dead children, and the ever-present feeling of menace, 
not from an enemy set over against you but from everything 
surrounding you. The familiar peril lurked behind every bush, 
and / knew the names of the bushes.^ 

David Bakan, professor of psychology at York Univer- 
sity, confirms Margaret Atwood's impressions on the 
effect of cruelty in animal stories when he writes: 

Because of the child's sense of being victimized and because of 
his identification with animals, the purveyors of fictional 
materials for consumption by children have a cardinal rule not 
to show an animal being killed. It horrifies children too much, 
for it comes too close to the real condition in their minds. 
Thus, it is perfectly all right, for example, to show battle scenes 
with human beings being slaughtered by the hundreds and by 
the thousands. It is perfectly all right to show children scenes 
of men being mutilated, tortured, shot, and killed. But one dare 
not show the slaughter of a pig in an abattoir. The latter has a 
realism for the child that cannot easily be defended against. 


The normal repressive mechanisms are simply inadequate to 
cope with it.^'^ 

Apart from animal stories, other Canadian fiction can 
be emotionally upsetting in its pessimism and mood of 
anxiety. Margaret Atwood writes: 

Our stories are likely to be tales not of those who made it hut 
of those who made it back, from the awful experience - the 
North, the snow storm, the sinking ship - that killed everyone 
else. The survivor has no triumph or victory but the fact of his 
survival; he has little after his ordeal that he did not have 
before except gratitude for having escaped with his life.''*' 

Canadians, and to a greater extent, French Canadians, 
hold a marked preference for the negative, for expres- 
sions of pessimism and an "almost intolerable anxiety" 
which Atwood attributed to a reflection of the 
Canadian struggle for national survival and the 
Quebecois struggle against cultural extinction. French- 
Canadian preference for saints and martyrs at the 
moment of their suffering and mutilation, she asserts, is 
a definite fictional reflection of the French-Canadian 
struggle for survival.^^ 

Margaret Atwood is primarily concerned with illus- 
trating that there is a unique Canadian identity 
revolving around the symbol of survival and which is 
reflected unmistakably in our literature. Though it may 
be reassuring that she found a unique Canadian identity 
and literature, the abundance of pessimism, death, 
cruelty, and violence, comparable to that in American 
literature, is disheartening. While the American individ- 
ualist is portrayed as successful in his fight for survival, 
the Canadian fights determinedly, but ultimately loses. 
Though the setting, characters, and outcome are 
difl'erent, the violence of the struggle is essentially the 


Chapter Six 

The Control of Radio 

The Nature of Wireless Communication 

Throughout history it has generally been accepted that 
the degree of "communal civilization and 
enhghtenment" has correlated with the recognition or 
advocacy of freedom of speech. Conversely, in periods 
of "ignorance and oppression," such freedom was 
conspicuously absent.' With the advent of radio in the 
early twentieth century, society was forced to re-ex- 
amine and redetine such concepts as "censorship," 
"regulation," and even "copyright."^ The idealistic 
proponents of absolute freedom of radio speech were 
countered by others who more correctly saw the 
immense difficulties in achieving open access to the 
airwaves. B. K. Sandwell, noted Canadian media 
watcher and practitioner, metaphorically contrasted 
easily accessible soapboxes in Hyde Park and the 
restricted number of radio spaces available for public 
addresses. In radio, he noted, "the pitches are limited" 
for the number of opportune spaces where barkers 
could pitch and listeners could hear would be exceeded 
by the numbers of willing pitchers.^ 

Very soon after its invention and adoption, it was 
clear that the very nature of the radio medium 
demanded an unprecedented form of regulation to 
control usage of the radio airwaves, for over-crowding 
meant interference and in fact negated the new possibil- 
ities which the novel form of "communication" offered. 
It was only after a long series of international confer- 
ences had established and ratified a satisfactory system 
of wavelength assignments that attention could be 
shifted to a concern with content rather than the 
physical problems of the medium. (As an example, in 
the late 1930s Canada and the U.S. were still trying to 
come to a satisfactory arrangement regarding the 
allocation of wavelengths.) In the end, each country was 
forced to create its own regulatory system, and as a 
result, Canada, Great Britain, and the United States 
evolved systems compatible with their own philosophies 
concerning the importance of the medium in relation to 
the nature of each country as a whole. Britain opted for 
total governmental control, the United States, after 
much debate, decided on a purely commercial system. 

while Canada, as expected, eventually had both private 
and public systems. 

Control of the Ether* 

The Marconi International Marine Communications 
Company was created in 1900 to establish wireless 
stations along trade routes. Ships were started by 
Marconi operators instructed to refuse communication 
with users of other patents. "This dog-in-the-manger 
policy was the first gesture in a wireless war, a precursor 
of a virtual state of anarchy to which that means of 
communication came within a decade."^ 

With no international regulations as to wireless use, 
radio operators treated the medium as a new toy - no 
operator admitted precedence to another and liners 
were especially contemptuous of freighters' rights to 
communicate. When not transmitting or receiving legit- 
imate messages, operators chattered, gossiped, feuded, 
and quarrelled in Morse Code, frequently disrupting 
other opportunities for message exchange. To "choke" 
such irresponsibility, operators would "throw a book on 
the key" setting up a continuous roar and halting all 
communication within range. Such manoeuvres were 
consequently "filling the air at times with curses, asper- 
sions and choice obscenities."^ 

With so much technical and human interference, 
wireless service was far below an efficient standard. In 
1903, the first International Wireless Conference 
congregated and problem issues were discussed, though 
no action was taken. Further meetings ensued, and in 
1908 the long-recognized need for organization in the 
ether was at last realized, albeit in small measure, by the 
ratification of an international distress signal - "S.O.S."^ 
Technical improvements were constantly being 
developed in laboratories all over the world as interest 
widened and transmissible distance grew. 

While Marconi concentrated on increasing distance, 
Reginald Aubrey Fessenden (born in Canada, though 
of old New England Puritan ancestry) succeeded in 
adding music and voice to the dot and dash of the 1906 
wireless ether. Lee de Forest also pursued broadcasting 
beyond "sweet melody," and it was his experiments 


which provided the bond 

for a growing brotherhood, scattered far and wide, that already 
numbered thousands; a host of experimenters, of every age and 
status; of hstcners who didn't merely hsten but communicated 
feverishly with each other . . . boys - and men - were 
constantly filing down nickels to make coherers, or winding 
wires around round objects - broken baseball bats or, later on, 
Quaker Oats boxes." 

These amateurs added considerably to the content of 
the airwaves. The broadcasting historian. Erik 
Barnouw, quoted Stanley R. Manning reminiscing 
about the first receiver he built in 1909, which interfered 
with attempts of the Brooklyn Navy Yard to commu- 
nicate with ships at sea: 

They wanted me to lay off when they were on the air. I wasn't 
perturbed about it because there weren't any laws, rules or 
regulations in those days. All they could do was ask me to be 
careful about it, which naturally I was, too.'^ 

Another chronicler of radio's early days, Alvin Harlow, 
seems to have been less enthusiastic about amateur 
infatuation with wireless: 

The amateurs in America provided an even worse problem 
than warring companies . . . Radio magazines v/ere springing 
into being everywhere and they, the popular science magazmes 
and the newspapers were crammed with articles and diagrams 
telling how to build home radio sendmg and receiving sets, 
including aerials for both. Clumsy, grotesque towers began 
thrusting up into the air, the owners began expressing their 
egos and having no end of fun. There might be dozens of 
stations, amateur and professional within a thickly populated 
area, all using the same or nearly the same wavelength, and 
chaos was but a feeble word for the situation.'" 

He even cites such instances of amateur chicanery as 
sending false orders and distress signals to naval vessels. 

At hearings held by a U.S. Congressional committee 
in 1912, the amateurs countered Navy complaints of 
amateur interference with transcripts of conversations 
between officers or officers and women exposing cheap 
gossip, intrigue, assignations, and amatory trivia which 
caused the Navy much embarrassment. This rather 
feeble ploy of humiliation failed, for. as Harlow notes, 
"the amateurs lost. Again, as in the case of movie 
censorship and prohibition, unbridled liberty had 
become licence and slain itself."" 

In response to "widespread public demand." the U.S. 
federal government "hesitatingly" passed an act in 1912 
which authorized the Secretary of Commerce and Labor 
to issue licences to stations engaging in interstate or 
foreign communication and prohibited unlicensed 
operators or stations from communication by radio. '^ 
The amateurs were angered by these restrictions, but in 
practice the law introduced only minor restraints. The 
U.S. Attorney General claimed the Secretary of 
Commerce could not refuse a licence to an applicant 
and, while the allocation of wavelengths was part of the 
post, there was apparently some doubt as to enforce- 
ment. It was not until February, 1923. that a U.S. Court 
of Appeals affirmed the Secretary's powers to designate 
a station's wavelength. Approximately 1,000 existing 

transmitters were licensed immediately, and, despite the 
original amateur cries of doom for their hobby, the 
numbers of licences issued contmued to nse.'^ 

Cireat Britain had taken this first step at wireless 
control through licensing eight years before, with its 
Wireless Telegraphy Act which required all transmitters 
and receivers of wireless signals to be licensed by the 
Post Office. In Canada, the Department of Marine and 
Fisheries took care of this function, and in 1905, anyone 
"establishing, installing or working apparatus for 
wireless telegraphy" required a licence. Stiff fines and 
forfeiture of apparatus were the Canadian penalties for 
transmitting or receiving signals on unlicensed 
equipment.''* In both Canada and Great Britain the 
Minister responsible for licensing also had discretionary 
powers over who should receive licences. The U.S. 
Secretary of Commerce had no such control. 

It is perhaps a reflection of British and Canadian 
public consciousness that attempts were made to 
control misuse of the airwaves several years before the 
U.S. took any legislative action in this direction.'-'' 
Possibly, the eight-year American lag in legislation 
really was, as Harlow infers, because licensing repre- 
sented a threat to "old rugged [American] 

Beginnings of Broadcasting: 
Interpretations of Public Interest 

The United States: 

The outbreak of the first World War silenced amateur 
radio and all wireless stations were commandeered by 
their respective governments, though research and 
experimentation continued. The historian Asa Briggs. in 
his chronicle of the bbc. claimed that "organized broad- 
casting grew naturally out of these war-time develop- 
ments. The surprise is that there were still so few people 
who saw its possibilities."''' 

In 1915, David Samoff. an employee of the Marconi 
Wireless Telegraph Company, was one of the few 
visionaries who viewed radio as a household infor- 
mation and entertainment utility. He foresaw wireless 
as a vehicle for culturally supplying the home with 
concerts, lectures, music recitals, baseball scores and 
events of national importance -a proposition SarnofT 
considered especially attractive to "farmers and others 
living in outlying districts removed from cities."'^ In 
partial fulfilment of the Sarnoff dream, the first 
regularly scheduled licensed broadcasting of programs 
began in 1920 in Canada. Great Britain, and the U.S. 

As with more recent dreams of a "new rural society" 
via the wired city, the excitement of innovation in 
communications media brought the messianic and 
demonic qualities of radio to the tbre.''^ In his 
exhaustive study of responses to new mass media in the 
American periodical press. Robert E. Davis found that 
1921-1923 marked a period in which writers joined such 
visionaries as Lee de Forest and David SarnoflT in 
exploring the vast potential of radio. Advocates hailed 


the variety of material which broadcasting would bring 
to home, school, and church, lauded the democracy of 
the radio medium, and named it second only to the 
movies as a national amusement that educated as it 
entertained. On the opposite side, detractors feared that 
other amusements would suffer as audiences turned to 
radio, that the faithful would decrease and church 
congregations would shrink, that newspapers would be 
unable to compete with broadcasting in the sphere of 
news dissemination. "Radio, said those suspicious of 
innovation, was but another complicating and 
disrupting force in society."^*' 

The "complicating and disrupting force" 
mushroomed in the United States - in 1922, the first 
year of availability of radio sets for the general public, 
RCA radio sales amounted to $1 1 million. In 1923 it rose 
to $22.5 million: and in 1926 to $400 million.^' 
American radio manufacturing firms amalgamated to 
avoid patent wars and evolved into broadcasting 
companies to create market potential for their products. 
The public, which had been content to hear any discon- 
nected series of recognizable sounds during the experi- 
mental earphone stage of radio, now demanded better 
reception technically, and quality material for listening. 

While Sarnoff' favoured revenue from licensing and a 
public endowment scheme to finance program produc- 
tion, AT&T, then one of the pioneer broadcast firms, 
believed radio broadcasts should be supported by the 
originator, not unlike telephone conversations.^^ The 
practice of radio-equipment manufacturers' airing 
programs to foster radio sales provoked at&t ire: 
"Those who were using the new medium simply to 
promote their own products, far from performing a 
public service, were exploiting a popular craze. "^^ In 
1922. weaf. the at&t station in New York City, initiated 
paid sponsorship, and by 1925 the programming 
question of "who should pay?" had a commercial 
answer to rising production costs. Subsequently, radio 
"networks" evolved as stations linked with each other, 
allowing national coverage of programming. 

Herbert Hoover, then U.S. Secretary of Commerce, 
had expressed a concern for minimal governmental 
controls to ensure radio's future as a "public concern 
impressed with the public trust and to be considered 
primarily from the standpoint of public interest to the 
same extent and upon the basis of the same general 
principles as our other public utilities."^'* His concern 
over rampant commercialism caused him to vacillate in 
speeches between policing and self-regulation.^^ 

The early 1920s had been subject to a "suppression 
mania,"^* and broadcasting executives, nervous about a 
"red" on the air. had equipped studio engineers with an 
emergency device to censor radical views by immedi- 
ately switching over to the broadcasting of phonograph 
records. Olga Petrova's nursery rhyme on birth control 
and poem on prostitution, risque jokes, and radical 
opinions were hastily removed from the air in 1921. 
Concerned with their image of respectability, wireless 

telephony executives heavily censored a talk on 
cigarettes and delayed a "discreet" discussion of tooth 
care until the ethics and etiquette of broadcasting such 
a "personal" topic could be debated. ^^ 

By 1925, Hoover addressed his fourth National Radio 
Conference and reaffirmed American "freedom" of the 

The decision that we should not imitate some of our foreign 
colleagues with governmentally controlled broadcasting 
supported by a tax upon the listener has secured for us a far 
greater variety of programs and excellence in service free of 
cost to the listener. This decision has avoided the pitfalls of 
political, religious and social conflicts in the use of speech over 
the radio which no Government could solve - it has preserved 
free speech to this medium.^* 

The incredible delusion under which Hoover operated 
becomes readily evident when the realm of unoflficial 
censorship is considered. 

The outrage over corrupt public resource 
management (or lack thereoO in the Teapot Dome 
Scandal, directed attention to other areas of the public 
domain which required safeguarding, and resulted in an 
idealistic 1927 radio law and the establishment of the 
Federal Radio Commission. ^^ Sixty days after passage 
of the act, all existing licences were voided and re-appH- 
cations were required, which, it was hoped, would 
formulate the brave new American radio world. 
Censorship powers were denied the frc (except for a 
prohibition of "obscene, indecent or profane 
language"), but infringement of "public interest, 
convenience and necessity" could lead to licence 

The NBC and cbs networks continued to transmit 
largely musical offerings in 1928-9, but radio drama was 
growing.^' By 1929, Amos 'n' Andy was nationally syndi- 
cated and widely celebrated in the U.S. and Canada. 
The racism of the characterization and dialogue, which 
seems so apparent today, elicited no comment. The 
happy-go-lucky ghetto image was reinforced to 
maintain the delusion that "they" were better off where 
they really were: "that South Side poverty was 
somehow charming and fitting ... It was not an 
accident that 'Amos 'n' Andy' was a national triumph. 
It was virtually a national self-expression, a vivid 
amusement park image of its time."^^ 

In eighteen months between 1928 and 1929, rca 
stock climbed over 600 per cent for radio had profited 
from the inflating credit bubble - until the stockmarket 
crash in late 1929. The panic of the depression caused 
many stations to leave the air, while others switched to 
time sales in pursuit of the departing advertising dollar. 
Stations could not aff()rd record libraries, and hired live 
talent in the barter economy then in operation. 1929-32 
marked increasing numbers of longer commercial 
announcements - "an almost spectacular retreat from 
previous standards."^ Concert music almost vanished 
and astrology, numerology, and advice (social, medical, 
marital, spiritual) programs replaced it. By 1931. 


virtually all sponsored network programs were 
developed and produced by advertising agencies rather 
than by networks or stations as before. To maintain 
their audience support, broadcasters rendered their 
offerings not only palatable, but wholesome. By the use 
of the censorship sieve "every possibly un-American 
and harmful ingredient (Bolshevism, Communism, 
Socialism, sex, free thought, Naktkultur, atheism, liber- 
alism, radicalism, pessimism, etc.) [was] kept out of the 
ambrosia fed to listeners-in."^^ Only the decent 
American ideals were transmitted via Rise of the 
Goldbergs. Mary and Boh. and True Story - not much 
progress had been made since the suppression mania of 
the early days of broadcasting. 

The FRc standards of "public interest, convenience 
and necessity" were sufficiently fluid and vague to allow 
for erratic censorship via licensing prerogatives, all the 
while enabling the Commission to disclaim violation of 
the "freedom" guaranteed by the act. 

J. R. Brinkley, the infamous "goat-gland" doctor, 
established station kfkb to offer medical advice to his 
mail-order patent medicine following - the greatest 
attraction stemming from his promise to return the 
hstless males of America to potency by means of a 
"compound" operation! The frc denied his application 
for hcence renewal in 1930, and Brinkley's subsequent 
appeal represented the first judicial consideration of frc 
authority to control programs which it considered not 
to be in the public interest. Accusations of censorship 
were judicially circumvented as the court reaffirmed the 
FRc's right to consider "past conduct" of licence appli- 
cants regarding service to public interest. ^^ Consider- 
ation of past conduct as justification for licence 
revocation implicitly assumed a knowledge that future 
conduct by the station in question would be the same. 
Whether or not this assumption was valid did not 
negate the fact that censorship had a much broader 
definition than mere "prior scrutiny" by a government 
body. Regardless of frc denial of censorship powers - 
censor they did. 

It might be interesting to note at this point that even 
after the frc failed to renew his radio licence, Brinkley 
narrowly missed becoming Governor of Kansas as a 
write-in candidate. He ran officially in the 1932 guber- 
natorial race and broadcast from Mexico to his loyal 
audience.^'' The public demand obviously outranked 
legal consideration of the public utility. 

In 1934, the U.S. Federal Communications Act was 
passed; basically a re-enactment of the 1927 legislation 
but broadening several parameters. The Federal 
Communications Commission replaced the frc, and the 
new body also held that the public interest of 
programming content would be considered in the 
granting of licences. Again, "public interest" was a 
discretionary term and again, the fcc obtusely denied 
that it had censorial authority. The amount of 
investment by broadcasters, and the short renewal 
period, more or less assured station compliance with 

FCC suggestions - the "censorship of fear" or "raised 
eyebrow" was extremely effective in America. 

Diverse incidents provoked fc c intervention - as a 
result of a Mae West/Charlie McCarthy skit on Adam 
and Eve, fraught with innuendos, all stations carrying 
the program were informed that the event would be 
considered in their licence renewal applications. To 
avoid further demerits, nb( immediately banned the 
mention of West's name from broadcasts on their 
network stations. The local stations complained that 
they were victimized, in that they had had no oppor- 
tunity to eliminate elements of bad taste in advance of 
the West broadcast.^* 

FCC chairmen frequently employed speech-making 
campaigns to issue covert threats regarding program 
content, advertising of alcohol and laxatives, cooper- 
ation with the National Recovery Administration, 
increases in educational content, elimination of 
simulated newscasts, editorializing by broadcasters, and 
similar matters. ^^ Except for ensuring that stations were 
not licensed where talent was unavailable, the fcc 
apparently trusted sponsors to insist on. and thereby 
control, the quality of entertainment, and tried not to 
concern itself with the matter.''^ As mentioned above, 
networks and sponsors combined to maintain only 
wholesome images in American radio, though the 
definition of "wholesome" occasionally provoked 
listener response, especially with regard to crime radio 
serials as will be shown. 

To forestall legal restraint, a voluntary program code 
was adopted in 1937 by the National Association of 
Broadcasters which delineated acceptable standards of 
programs and advertising content. No penalty for viola- 
tions was provided for the rather conservative 
standards, and many questions were raised regarding 
the Code's constitutionality and effectiveness."*' Three 
years before, a Committee of Five for the Betterment of 
Radio had banded together to ward off any danger of 
extension to radio of the Roman Catholic Church 
(through the Legion of Decency) crusade against 
indecent movies. These five orchestra leaders and 
broadcasters promised to scrutinize and ban any songs 
which could be construed as suggestive, veiled, or off- 
colour in interpretation."*- Once again the concept of 
self-regulation was apparently a justifiable form of 
social control for American radio. 

In an article written for Hollywood Quarterly.*^ 
Robert Shaw noted that, as economic and political 
pressures intensified, there was an inevitable increase in 
the effort to control radio, and to manipulate the public 
medium for private purposes and specialized economic 
or political ends. He observed five aspects of "restrictive 
pressure" as being prevalent and recurrent in the 
American radio industry: (I) the political type of 
censorship, the efibrt to use political power to invalidate 
existing radio laws, exemplified by the Rankin 
Committee on Un-American Activities; (2) the type of 
censorship originating in the stations and networks, and 


aimed at keeping off the air certain kinds of programs 
that may not agree with the opinions or tastes of those 
in direct control of broadcasting, for example, the nab 
Code abhorrence of "controversial issues"; (3) the type 
of censorship exercised with the specific intent of 
influencing the selection or interpretation of news - 
editorializing was considered a mortal American sin; 
(4) a masked censorship which cluttered the air with 
profitable commercial nonsense of no public interest or 
necessity, thereby crowding out excellence; (5) a public 
censorship which resisted inferior programming by 
refusing to listen to it, an important threat to the 
principles of commercial broadcasting. All these 
paradigms of legal and illegal paternalism were present 
in so-called "free" American broadcasting on the radio, 
and in modified form interfered with the British and 
Canadian offerings on their own airwaves. 

Great Britain: 

The government of Great Britain, through various 
agencies, had kept a strict rein on wireless experimen- 
tation in that country via permissions granted or denied 
by the Post Office, and not always with total approval 
from official circles. Asa Briggs claimed the historic 
broadcast of singer Nellie Melba "was deplored because 
it represented a 'frivolous' use of a 'national service.' '"^^ 
The pioneer Marconi broadcasts at Chelmsford were 
suspended in response to complaints of interference 
with other stations and a belief that Marconi was 
broadcasting for propagandistic rather than scientific 
purposes. As in the United States, amateur group 
pressure inspired the Post Office to relax the Defence of 
the Realm Act slightly and, while retaining substantial 
discretionary powers, to issue licences to all approved 
persons. Wireless was thus to be treated not as a 
personal pleasure but as a "definite object of scientific 
research or of general public utility."'*^ The radio boom 
in the United States and the consequent chaos in the 
ether served as a warning for British policy makers - it 
was recognized that the "go-as-you-please" methods of 
the United States could have dangerous results in the 
small but densely populated United Kingdom.''^ 

F. J. Brown, a British Post Office official, attended an 
American wireless conference in 1922 and returned to 
England to outline the essentials of British broadcasting 
policy. The result was "a combination of caution and 
abstinency typical of relationships between an 
autocratic concessionaire and an objectionable 
licence,"'*^ eventually culminating in the 1922 formation 
of the British Broadcasting Company, a collection of 
radio manufacturers. 

Once the decision had been made to structure the 
industry as a broadcasting monopoly, whose licence 
could be withdrawn by the Post Office for misbeha- 
viour, attention shifted to a concern for content. As the 
Manchester Guardian noted in 1922, "The really vital 
point of control seems to have caused little comment or 
suggestion so far. Yet, on the assumption that the public 

takes eagerly to the new method of communication, it is 
a matter of supreme importance that the judges of what 
is to be communicated should command a good 
name.'"*** The definition of the components in "a good 
name" was rather rigidly specified and enforced in 
British broadcasting. 

While the Post Office feared bbc airing of contro- 
versy, the newspapers feared the competition of broad- 
casting in news dissemination.'''' By 1924, bbc General 
Manager J. C. W. Reith had operationalized the public- 
service aspect of broadcasting by concentrating on four 
areas: a lack of dependence on the profit motive, 
national coverage, unified control, and "the mainte- 
nance of high standards, the provision of the best and 
the rejection of the hurtful. [For] Reith had no 
sympathy with the view that it is the task of the broad- 
caster to give the customer what he wants."^*' This 
attitude, of course, comprises the basic difference 
between American and British philosophies; the British 
would attempt to ensure that Robert Shaw's fourth 
concept of censorship, as described above, did not 
operate; the Americans would thrive on it. 

Reith's requests for permission to broadcast Parlia- 
mentary debates were rejected in 1924, frustrating his 
attempts to make broadcasting educational in the 
widest sense. Speeches aired on controversial topics 
(world peace. League of Nations . . . ) drew complaints 
from both sides, and officials claimed that this negated 
accusations of bbc bias.-''' Religion was almost as 
controversial a topic during the 1920s as politics. Never- 
theless, Christianity served as the foundation for the 
moral tone of the programming on the bbc. Under 
Reith, programs broadcast on Sunday had to be framed 
with a respect for the Sabbath, a view which was met 
with considerable opposition during a period of 
declining religious social and moral influence. Under 
Reith, BBC program policy maintained that it could 
influence the large segment of the population outside 
the efi"ective range of churches and should therefore 
resist rather than reflect secular trends. 

After 1926, when broadcasting was extended beyond 
the few limited hours of the early twenties, religious 
programs occupied only one per cent of the total weekly 
air time, yet the ethics of airing only Christian 
philosophy on Sundays was debated in the periodical 
press and the Sabbath observation restrictions were 
gradually relaxed." Although more seasonal variation 
existed in Britain than in America regarding allotment 
of air time to music programming, in both countries 
music always accounted for the largest proportion of 
broadcast hours during the 1920s and 1930s and, 
though it ranged from opera to jazz, it required little 
censorship or control. ^^ 

During the General Strike in Britain from May 3 to 
May 12, 1926, the British Broadcasting Company 
managed to retain independence from the government. 
Hampered by an official prohibition of broadcasting the 
words of a union speaker, the bBC was lauded for its part 


in dispelling rumours and spreading optimism. The 
Company was attacked however, by listeners and 
government, for the lack of unionist news, for the delay 
of a churchmen's appeal to end the strike until after a 
formal government decision had been reached not to 
take over the bbc during the crisis, and for its frequent 
"editorials" on the situation.''* 

1927 saw the creation of the British Broadcasting 
Corporation, set up by Royal Charter to represent the 
public rather than manufacturing firms, as had been 
recommended by the Crawford Committee. The public- 
service function that Reith had outlined formed the 
basic assumption underlying British radio then, and 
remains so today. Revenue was gleaned from listener 
licence fees and the corporation was "invested with the 
maximum of freedom that parliament [was] prepared to 
concede. "'' The Postmaster General, however, retained 
extraordinary powers which enabled him to require the 
Corporation to refrain from sending any broadcast 
matter as specified in a written notice, and immediately 
instructed the Corporation that it was not to broadcast 
on matters of political, industrial, or religious contro- 
versy. This ban was not lifted until 1928, when policy 
was "experimentally" left to the discretion of the 
Director-General and the Governors.'^ This basic 
policy of public interest through control was lauded in 
Britain while the American commercial pattern 
attracted more British criticism than support. 

The few occasions of attempted censorship of enter- 
tainment via pressure-group influence concluded in a 
re-affirmation of the British preference to "make up 
their own minds" whether or not material was blasphe- 
mous, sensational, or politically prejudiced. ^^ In the 
absence of sponsors' concern regarding their 
commercial images, British "controlled" radio appeared 
to have been freer than the "uncensored" American 


The number of Canadian broadcasting stations 
increased rapidly after the granting of the first 
commercial licence in 1922, most operated by 
newspapers or radio-equipment manufacturing firms 
hoping to promote their respective products. In this first 
decade of broadcasting, no specific Canadian decision 
was made regarding the structure of radio service. Both 
Canada and the United States assumed that the 
government concern should primarily be one of 
technical administration and not content-oriented as in 
Britain. Canadian political leaders, not realizing the 
implications of formulating public policy, followed the 
hne of least resistance and undertook as little control as 
socially possible. During the mid- 1920s, American 
usurpation of Canadian wavelengths focused attention 
on the problem of "interference" as a major point of 
contention. Thus a long series of negotiations between 
Canada and the U.S. began in an attempt to allot 
frequencies on a more equitable basis. A philosophical 

difference of opinion arose - the U.S. supported 
wavelength allocation according to population, 
claiming that Canada had a sufficient number of 
frequencies, which could be optimized by increasing 
power. Ever conscious of the need to protect her rights, 
Canada preferred allotment by territory and wanted 
more frequencies. It was not until 1941 that Canada 
acquired assurance of a fair share in hemispheric 
frequency allocations. 

Canadian businessmen had entered the radio broad- 
casting field to sell their radio equipment, promote their 
newspapers, or prevent radio competition for adver- 
tising revenue. Professor Frank Peers, in his history of 
Canadian broadcasting, noted that in 1928, many radio- 
station owners feared most broadcasting would become 
an unprofitable business, if attempts were made to 
establish larger stations for the scattered population. 
Only with a large, immediately accessible market of 
willing consumers listening to the radio could the 
principles of commercial broadcasting be profitably and 
successfully implemented. Canada's radio markets were 
diffused and the Department of Marine and Fisheries 
policy of allotting only one of the precious wavelengths 
to a city resulted in "phantom" stations sharing a 
wavelength, each broadcasting only a few hours per 
day. This situation did not facilitate the establishment 
of a loyal audience and Canadians generally listened to 
American stations more than to their own. Canadian 
stations were .small, their schedules irregular, their 
broadcast hours short, and their average programs 
unexciting - not an ideal business situation. 

Concerned about the attrition rate of Canadian radio 
stations, the government passed a bill in 1923 which 
allowed the broadcasting stations to receive a portion of 
the licence fees charged on receiving sets by the 
Department of Marine and Fisheries. The bill was 
necessitated by the demise of the only radio stations in 
Manitoba, both owned by newspapers. The Manitoba 
government was to operate a radio station financed by 
half the licence fees collected in the province. While 
Minister Lapointe expressed the opinion that a similar 
fee split should be allocated for radio services across 
Canada, the Manitoba arrangement was never extended 
to any other station or province.'* 

Throughout the decade of the Twenties, the 
government blustered and wavered on the issue of 
advertising as revenue. Peers claimed that receiving-set 
licences were commonly evaded by Canadians who felt 
that they too should enjoy "free" broadcasting as in the 
U.S. In 1923, the Radio Branch of the Department of 
Marine and Fisheries experimentally permitted 
"indirect" advertising (a sponsorship format) at any 
time; "direct" (hard-sell commercials) advertising was 
allowed before 6 p.m. Reviewing the advertising 
situation in 1925, the Department noted that little direct 
advertising had been employed. The following year its 
use was forbidden except bv ministerial permission: 
indirect advertising was still permissible. By 1929. the 


Aird Commission heard numerous complaints 
regarding the prevalence of direct advertising; regula- 
tions were obviously relaxed or ignored. ^^ 

Canadians were poorly served in urban areas by low- 
power stations, while many rural areas had no radio. 
Broadcast range could be extended by increasing power 
or by linking in a network structure, the latter structure 
being deemed essential for national coverage in 
Canada. The Canadian National Railway initiated a 
radio department in 1923, and gradually established 
network broadcasting, presenting "the most 
venturesome programs on the Canadian air" - operas, 
special events, school broadcasts, and a symphony 
series. Sir Henry Thornton, the initiator of cnr radio, 
viewed the medium as an instrument with which to 
serve the national interest, maintaining a physical, 
unifying link between the provinces. ^° 

Frank Peers notes the dearth of criticism during the 
1920s regarding the cnr radio's expenditure of public 
funds, rather surprising, considering the ongoing battle 
between public and private radio ownership interests. 
He attributes this lack of attention as possibly due to: 1. 
the small amount spent by the cnr in relation to their 
total operating budget; 2. a feeling that cnr was not the 
same as "the government," therefore not as subject to 
vociferous complaints; 3. the operating method of the 
radio network (a "phantom" system in part, which 
actually helped finance private stations by renting time 
on their air); 4. the welcomed Canadian programming 
which was competitive with the American product.^' 

In 1928, following complaints that the radio 
programming of the International Bible Students 
Association was "unpatriotic and abusive of all our 
churches," the Department of Marine and Fisheries 
took its first stand on Canadian program content, and 
revoked the licences of the Bible Students, and 
Universal Radio who shared a "phantom" station." 
This action sparked a parliamentary controversy 
regarding the range of ministerial discretion, censorship, 
and the absence of a concrete broadcasting policy, 
which culminated in the establishment of a Royal 
Commission "to consider the manner in which the 
available channels can be most effectively used in the 
interests of Canadian listeners and in the national 
interests of Canada," and to make recommendations 
regarding future administration, control, and financing 
of Canadian broadcasting.^^ 

Reporting in 1929, the Aird Commission recom- 
mended an autonomous broadcasting organization 
similar to the bbc, which would acquire and operate all 
private stations. As only indirect advertising would be 
allowed, licence fees would be increased and the 
government would grant funds to finance the system. 
Although numerous constitutional, financial, and philo- 
sophical problems were rampant in the renort, by the 
end of 1929 the reaction was mostly favourable and the 
Department of Marine and Fisheries began drafting 

legislation for introduction to the next Parliament. Still, 
no mention was made of program content. 

Two influential organizations were also born at this 
time in Canada. The Canadian Association of Broad- 
casters was formed to deal with demands made by 
performers regarding copyright infringement of music 
played over the air. The Radio League was established 
in 1930, its policy based upon the Aird Report's 
principle of the public utility of radio; by 1932 it had 
the documented support of organizations and 
individuals totalling 1,055,000.<^ 

Amidst this pressure to view and utilize radio as a 
tool of Canadian nationalism, American programming 
still occupied the vast majority of Canadian listening 
time. Not only did listeners pick up broadcasts directly 
from American stations but in 1930, ckgw, the station 
owned by the Toronto Telegram, actually became part 
of the NBC network, a practice copied by several other 
Canadian stations in the following years.''^ The cpr 
joined cnr in the broadcasting business, and the 
private/public ownership war continued to rage. 
Amidst this unsettled state in Canadian radio, the Duff 
Commission of 1931, appointed to inquire into the 
railway situation, also heard representatives from 
private stations claiming that radio facilities needed 
improvement only in the West and Maritime regions. 
Furthermore, there was little recognition of any need to 
go beyond the development of a Canadian musical 

In 1931, a parliamentary committee on radio broad- 
casting considered briefs and submissions from 53 
sources; its recommendations resulted in the Canadian 
Radio Broadcasting Act of 1932. Prime Minister 
Bennett personally endorsed the nationalization of a 
string of high power radio stations supplemented by 
private, low-power local stations with a provision that 
the government could possibly take over all broad- 
casting in Canada. 

Nationalization was most strongly advocated by 
those who resented "domination of the air by American 
programs of jazz, crooners, American oratory and 
infinitely wearisome advertising blurbs. "^^ The view was 
widely held that radio had failed to live up to expecta- 
tions and opportunities; many wished to eliminate 
private financial interests and adhere to the British 
system. ^^ In a brief to the Fowler Commission on 
Broadcasting (1956), the Canadian Association of 
Broadcasters claimed the remarkable early expansion of 
Canadian radio, evident from 1922-29 when broad- 
casting was developed largely through citizen capital, 
was dramatically halted after threatened nationalization 
in 1932. The state of the economy and a fear of expro- 
priation contributed to the dearth of private 

Of the 108 regulations drafted by the Canadian Radio 
Broadcasting Commission, 14 dealt with program 
content: only 40 per cent of the daily schedule could be 
composed of foreign imported programs, advertising 


copy could be checked by the Commission, time 
allotted to commercials was not to exceed five per cent 
of program time except by permission, evening spot 
announcements were prohibited, prices were taboo in 
commercials, station editorials were not to be broad- 
cast. Article 90 provided that no broadcasting station 
could broadcast any statements contrary to the 
expressed purpose of any existing legislation - a 
provision which was rescinded after pressure from the 
Opposition in Parliament, and replaced in 1935 by a 
modified version which could be easily evaded.™ 

In his history of Canadian broadcasting, Austin Weir 
claims the crbc had "an extraordinary faculty for 
stumbling into situations that would provoke 
contention and unfavourable publicity."^' 

In 1933 one hour nightly was allocated to national 
programming, three hours to programs of regional 
interest. Thomas Maher, responsible for assigning the 
national programming slots, filled three or four of the 
seven hours weekly available with French-language 
productions, which provoked a fury of protest from the 
Maritimes, Ontario, and Western Canada. Weir 
hastened to point out that it was not the French 
language which was deemed objectionable, rather 
interest in French courses was widespread in the West. 
The French language was however, associated with 
Roman Catholicism. Religious bigotry, as expressed by 
such nationally powerful organizations as the Orange 
Order and Western factions of the Ku Klux Klan, 
denounced the sudden airing of French programs across 
Canada. Mass protest rallies were staged, attended by 
thousands of members of groups such as the Protestant 
Vigilance Committee, The Royal Black Knights of 
Ireland, and the Sons of England of Prince Albert. All 
decried bilingualism. The vociferous prejudice, bigotry, 
and fear expressed by listeners outside Quebec might 
have been lessened had the French programs been 
introduced more gently into homes by occasional initial 
broadcasts, with a gradual buildup as acceptance 
increased. The crbc apparently searched for a 
scapegoat instead of immediately correcting the 
situation as was ultimately necessary. Weir referred to 
the controversy as "the single most unfortunate incident 
in national broadcasting" and noted that its effects were 
felt decades later. ^^ 

Earlier in 1933, Judge Rutherford, Chief Prophet of 
the Jehovah's Witnesses, was banned from all Canadian 
stations on the grounds that his talks included 
slanderous attacks on the Christian clergy and govern- 
mental authority. This brought on a campaign of tracts 
and petitions both supporting and denouncing the crbc 
actions, a pattern almost identical to the 1928 prelude to 
the Aird Commission; but the crbc ruling stood." 

The 1935 election campaign involved Conservative 
plans for the use of radio serials. Six "Mr. Sage" broad- 
casts were aired in September and October; the first 
made no mention of its political sponsor and was 
considered by listeners to have been a network dramatic 

offering. Mr. Sage, a life-long Tory, held opmionatcd 
discussions with friends regarding election campaign 
issues and participants. Mackenzie King, then 
Opposition Leader, considered the broadcasts scurri- 
lous, libellous, misrepresentative propaganda. The 1936 
Radio Broadcasting Committee held lengthy discus- 
sions but gleaned little information regarding the broad- 
casts, and no Liberal satisfaction. ^"^ 

Writing in The Canadian Forum, R. B. Tolbridge 
commented on crbc independence, calling the 
Commission "practically a government department, 
subject to all the promises of partisan influence." When 
it attempted to curb patent medicine charlatans, 
financial sharks, and mining racketeers with the aid of 
various better business bureaus, stock exchange heads, 
and the Department of National Health and Welfare, 
the Commission found that small station owners 
preferred obtaining revenue from such fraudulent 
advertisements to serving the public interest and 
possibly declaring subsequent bankruptcy. He 
considered the clamour of private radio for a semi-ju- 
dicial body to regulate both the crbc and private radio 
a ruse to bring about the kind of "emasculated and 
completely ineffectual 'regulation' " that appeared in 
the U.S. under the Federal Communications 
Commission.^- These were harsh words that expressed 
the general dissatisfaction with the crbc. and the still 
smouldering battle between private and public 
ownership of Canadian radio. 

These factors culminated in the Canadian Broad- 
casting Act of 1936. The offending crbc was now 
defunct and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 
replaced it with a Board of Governors to administer 
regulation of both Canadian broadcasting sectors. The 
pattern of dual broadcasting ownership had been 
uniquely established in Canada, although private 
stations continued to complain bitterly about restric- 
tions on the use of recorded material, prohibition of 
price mention in advertisements, unduly heavy line 
charges, and reservation of time for cbc sustaining 
programs at the most profitable commercial hours. ^* 

Offerings such as quality music, light entertainment, 
historical talks, and round-table discussions on consti- 
tutional matters drew praise from Queen's Quarterly but 
not from everyone. ^^ As in the United States. Canadian 
broadcasters frequently attempted to avoid public 
censure by exercising powers of prior censorship. 

Father Charles Lanphier of the Radio League of St. 
Michael's Church broadcast Catholic Sunday programs 
from Toronto which were countered bv Rev. Morris 
Zeidman. a Presbyterian minister representing the 
Protestant Radio League, both of whom were accused 
several times of attacking each other's faith. In January 
1937. a proposed talk bv Zeidman on the Protestant 
attitude toward birth control, expected to contain 
controversial religious material, was cancelled following 
a CBC suggestion. The following month a proposed 
broadcast on sterilization bv Dr. Hutton of the 


Eugenics Society of Canada was similarly axed. 
Toronto papers claimed the cbc decision stemmed from 
the influence on it of the Roman Catholic Church. 
When the issue rose in Parliament, M.P.'s requested a 
central board of censorship, unbiased and non-partisan, 
to impose universal Canadian standards of accepta- 
bility. C. D. Howe, then Minister of Transport, urged 
severe restrictions on programming to ensure that only 
inofl'ensive material would be sent through the airwaves. 

In 1937 the cbc passed regulations prohibitmg 
abusive comment on any religion, race, or creed and 
banned birth control as a subject inappropriate for 
broadcasting.^** However, controversy was not dead on 
the CBC, it had merely been modified. While Zeldman 
and Lanphier no longer aired their religious feuds, there 
were still spirited commentaries offered by such 
individuals as Premier Aberhart of Alberta, newspaper 
editor W. L. McTavish. and George Ferguson, 
Managing Editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, the last- 
named provoking parliamentary debate.''^ 

In 1939, the cbc White Paper on controversial broad- 
casting advocated a Hyde Park on radio by pressing the 
need for equal opportunity of access and the avoidance 
of air-time sales for individual propaganda. Its 
principles were suspended during wartime but upheld 
when peace returned and the policy continues today. 

Radio and World War II 

The advent of the war had drastic eff"ects on radio 
programming. Both the United Kingdom and Canada 
attempted to present a united front of public opinion 
during the war by suspending the stress on the need for 
controversial broadcasting. During the early war years 
in Canada, radio censorship was more systematic than 
press censorship but was ineff'ective because of the easy 
reception of American broadcasts. With the U.S. entry 
into the war, radio information control became 
somewhat easier. While strict and occasionally irksome, 
Canadian censorship was not dictatorial, and sincere 
criticism of the government was permitted. Dramatic 
radio accounts and too-graphic voice descriptions of 
battle action and paratroop fighting brought new reali- 
zation to Canadian listeners of the meaning of war. The 
experience of on-the-spot war reporting brought the 
details of dying soldiers into Canadian homes, evoking 
guilt among the listeners for their own lack of sacrifice 
in safeguarding the world from the conflict made so 
close by radio.**" In Britain, Canada, and the United 
States, rules prohibiting misrepresentation or ridicule 
of, or attacks on races, colours, and nationalities, were 
suspended with regard to the nature of the wartime 
enemy. In both adults' and children's comedy, drama, 
and song, characters all participated in the war eff'ort 
and spied on the German family down the block, or the 
Japanese restaurateur, bought bonds, worked in war- 
production factories and generally safeguarded their 
respective countries from an enemy described in the 
most despicable terms. 

Also in 1939 a British decision was made which left 
censorship to the discretion of the bbc Director-Gen- 
eral; news and political censorship was to be indirect, 
informal and voluntary based on liaison with the Press 
Division of the Ministry of Information. The bbc took 
public interest, intensified by the war, into account, and 
after conflict with the press, broadcast news bulletins 
throughout the day.*' By 1941, the nation's interest 
apparently required tighter control of the mass media - 
a member of the Ministry of Food complained that 
there was nothing to talk about that would pass the 
censor except "oatmeal, carrots and potatoes"; even the 
health of the population was considered taboo though 
mention of health had been aired only in passing 
reference during a radio drama.^^ American radio 
censorship was also to be voluntary, but weather news, 
news of troop, ship or plane movements, war produc- 
tion, fortifications and casualties were banned. 
Abolition of man-on-the-street interviews and other ad- 
lib programs was urged. "^^ Yet the aforementioned 
incidents of graphic battle descriptions on Canadian 
airwaves, paralleled in the U.S., would seem to indicate 
that paper regulations of program censorship were not 
strictly applied. 

After the war, radio was to have a totally new 
function in North America as it adapted to increasing 
competition with television. Canada's radio system 
evolved still further in structure, licence fees were 
dropped and the Board of Broadcast Governors and 
later the Canadian Radio-Television Commission 
performed regulatory functions. Radio turned increas- 
ingly to a music format, often specializing to cater to 
particular tastes rather than general public interest. Its 
new inoff'ensive role as a background medium aroused 
little interest from regulatory bodies.'*'* 

Violence and Radio: 
The Sound and The Fury 

A very few instances of concern have been expressed 
regarding American, British, and Canadian censorship 
and control of radio broadcasting. As has been shown, 
the main topics which resulted in control were religion, 
politics, sex, radicalism, fraud ... no mention has been 
made so far of violence. Except for an isolated 1928 
incident in Britain in which a skit regarding a mob 
storming Lambeth Bridge panicked radio listeners and 
resulted in scoldings, editorials, and bbc apologies (but 
no official regulation), violence apparently did not spark 
attempts at control by official or partisan groups in the 
United Kingdom.**- In Canada, comparatively little 
mention was made of violence on the radio. Only in the 
United States did the subject become a major area of 

Radio was sold with violence in mind even in the 
earliest days of broadcasting. The New York Times of 
July 17, 1927. claimed that the greatest event of that 
week would be the broadcast of the Dempsey-Sharkey 
fight, and predicted an audience greater than the 


30,000,000 who had Hstened to the Charles Lindbergh 
celebrations. Peter Odegard, writing in The American 
Public Mind used the incident as an example of the 
wonders which could be brought into the home via 
radio: "It is illegal to ship fight films in interstate 
commerce but the radio brings every battle of the 
century into the very homes of millions. Not only the 
male adults but the mothers and kiddies can now 'listen 
in' as the Manassa Mauler delivers a 'vicious left" to the 
Bull of the Pampas."***" Radio violence has been 
available in sports programming, in news, and in fiction 
for almost fifty years. While initially radio was lauded 
for its ability to bring "live action" into the home, 
eventually the reaction to fictionalized violence became 
somewhat less enthusiastic. 

Despite Robert E. Sherwood's 1929 pessimism over 
the success of radio drama,*^ during the 1930s to mid- 
1950s a host of serials, plays, and short narratives were 
sent into the radio ether for consumption by adult and 
child alike. Entertainment formulas, though stale and 
crassly commercial, won for radio "a loyalty that was 
almost irrational." Destitute families, forced to 
surrender icebox or furniture, still clung to their radios 
as a last link with humanity.**^ This attitude prevailed 
until the advent of television. A survey conducted in the 
late 1940s continued to indicate that men and women 
would be "lost," "ruined," "bored," or "lonely" without 
their electric companions. ^'^ Infatuation with radio even 
surfaced as grounds for divorce.*^" The vicarious gratifi- 
cation derived from escape into the fantasy heroes and 
heroines (be they soap or sadistic) made life more 
comfortable, livable, and bearable. 

While advertising continued to boost sales, especially 
of drugs and packaged foods, this commercial incentive 
of supplying demand resulted in a proliferation of 
daytime radio drama serials - soap operas. Prime-time 
night and evening programming was aimed at the 
family market and consisted of music, mystery, and 
half-hour comedy-variety selections with permanent 
casts and such recurrent themes as Jack Benny's stingi- 
ness. Fibber McGee and Molly's overflowing closet, 
and the Hope-Crosby "feud."^' However, it is in the 
realm of mystery and children's drama that we discover 
concern for violence in radio programming, for these 
programs primarily offered gory thrills. 

The irrepressible Canadian poet. Alden Nowlan, 
reminisced about the days when radio was 

an enchanted instrument, like the talking harp that Jack 
brought back from the top of the beanstalk . . . even its most 
mediocre shows had a dream-like quality. The imagination was 
free to create forms far more realistic than those that appear on 
the television screen . . . radio has never been equalled as a 
means of communicating the fantastic and the macabre. On 
film or videotape, monsters are essentially comic. On Inner 
Sanctum and Suspense they were as real as their counterparts in 
the depths of the unconscious mind.'- 

Sexual themes and birth-control discussions had been 
taboo with radio broadcasters since the days of Olga 

Petrova. Even in the soapy sex lives of serials for house- 
wives such insinuations were veiled. Social critic 
Gershon Legman has suggested that violence and death 
"save" the media from sex. Radio too, chose instead to 
air "blood and guts" programming m serial formal, and 
from the early 1930s, trickling into the 1950s, "radio 
blather scream[ed] before supper every day, with one or 
another grisly flaming horror left impending at the end 
of every chapter." Erik Barnouw"s Handbook of Radio 
Writing, published in 1939 when he was an instructor in 
this field at Columbia University, made a special effort 
to caution ambitious scenarists about "taboo notes on 
the open market." While conjugal housekeeping 
arrangements without benefit of clergy were strictly 
prohibited, even as a bad example, Barnouw noted that 
murder and arson constituted admissable matenal. His 
explanation for this apparent contradiction was 
somewhat difl^erent from that of Legman. The general 
taboo on sex matters, he explained, was enforced in 
deference to radio's role as the new world's 
"hearthside." He does not explain the term further, but 
the implication is there that radio violence must have 
been more cosy and congenial than radio sex. While 
murder and arson were suitable for broadcasting, 
authors were warned that topics of nightmarish crimes, 
e.g. kidnapping, might not be admissible and drama- 
tized scenes of suicide might also be unacceptable on 
certain stations or programs, as depressed listeners 
might be induced to do likewise. Barnouw suggested 
that plots on children's programs should be on the side 
of law, justice, and virtue, but cautioned against 
overwrought depiction of fear and persecution. All 
fiction writing, he claimed, was somewhat sadistic in 
order to evoke audience concern about the characters, 
but the degree of sadism had to be tempered to the 
audience. The line between enjoyable apprehension and 
unhealthy terror he left for child psychologists to 
determine.^^ Networks and sponsors seemed to follow 
Barnouw's rationale for violence in radio programming. 
They believed that audience sympathies were 
maintained by keeping heroes and heroines in constant 
danger: as long as this notion sold cereal and soap, 
"blood and thunder" was resident on radio. 

The Child's Garden of Violence included such illus- 
trious heroes as Jack Packard, a chauvinistic misogynist 
who "was man enough to take on an ax murderer 
barehanded, cut out the killer's heart with his own ax, 
and hand it to him." and who led his cronies through 
many international adventures.^'' In "The Battle of the 
Century," a rescue attempt was staged with superb 
attention to directional detail: 

Doc: Here they come. Jack . . . 

Jack: Watch out. Doc . . . 

Sound: (sound of confusion of struggle . . . exclamations heavy- 
breathing and a rain of socks and punches until the hand of 
every sound man at mbs aches like the toothache and is 
swollen twice its size. On cue. struggle fades back a little) 

Doc: (breathless, chuckles) How we a-doin'. Jack? 


Jack: (gasps) Save your breath for fighting . . . 

Doc: You betcha! (grunts) Honest to . . . (grunts) grandma . . . 
(grunts) I don't know . . . (grunts) when I've had so much 

Tom Mix, Terry and the Pirates, Sky King, Superman, 
Captain Midnight, Green Hornet ... all had their faithful 
followers. Children rooted daily for their favourite 
heroes and heroines, the cliff-hanging format ensured 
that they would "tune in tomorrow, same time, same 
station." Sponsors even intimidated their youthful 
audiences into believing their right to listen was invalid 
unless their parents bought the sponsor's product. As a 
check on their promotional effectiveness, sponsors 
requested listeners to send in box tops, etc. and offered 
"free gifts" from the idols in return.^^ While strict 
homage was paid to the triumph of good over evil, the 
means employed to achieve such moral ends were not 
exactly accepted social practice, and generally involved 
some form of extreme violence. 

The adult mystery shows, broadcast later at night, 
and of longer duration, intensified the juvenile horror of 
late afternoon. Children listened nonetheless - overtly, 
with the rest of the family, or covertly, ear pressed to the 
spare bedroom set. In response to pressure from 
parents, networks would promise to "clean up" the 
children's hours and broadcast adult horror later at 
night. Attempts were not made to adjust for time-zone 
changes, however, so that east-coast network promises 
were invalid in the west. 

The "evil that lurks in the hearts of men" surfaced 
weekly to challenge the Shadow's powers of mental 
perception and the audience tolerance for terror. His 
trusty "friend and companion," Margo Lane, an inept 
masochist who trailed Lamont Cranston through each 
episode, was menaced, tortured, bound, and assaulted 
for the twenty-three years of the program's life. In one 
of the duo's escapades, she is tortured (for kicks) by a 

Edward: In the days of the Puritans they had a very satis- 
factory method for dealing with meddlers . . . they branded 
them upon the forehead . . . 

Margo: No . . . no . . . 

Edward: Soon, young lady, soon you shall feel the searing 
agony of that brand biting into your flesh! 

Margo: You're mad . . . you're mad! 

Edward: (Laughing) You won't feel the pain too long ... no 
. . . you see, after you are branded I have another treat for 
you ... the press ... the torture press! 

Margo: You let me out of here! 

Edward: The branding iron is glowing now ... it is ready to 

Margo: You can't do this . . . please! 

Edward: (Laughing) Prepare yourself. . . prepare yourself, 
Miss Lane ... I have the iron ready now . . . 

Margo: Keep it away from me . . . (scream) Keep it away!" 
Naturally, when each audience hair stood on end, the 

Shadow entered the scene, calmly demanding that the 
"girl" be unhanded, the branding iron fell to the floor 
with a clatter and a collective sigh of relief was breathed 
in front of mahogany consoles across Canada and the 
U.S. The Shadow's enemies and Margo's tormentors 
inevitably died hard. One criminal met his end by the 
kiss of a jackdaw with a cyanide-tipped beak, another as 
a meal for a Great Dane. But the Shadow never killed 
anyone himself; perilous circumstances always ensured 
that justice prevailed. 

The popular show, Ganghusters, was based on fbi files 
with the "Feds" as heroes, until J. Edgar Hoover 
expressed displeasure over emphasis on excessive 
gunplay rather than patient police work. Philip Lord, 
the creator, merely identified his characters as city 
police and continued to assail the audience with an 
avalanche of SMACK! groan! Boffo! SMASH! 
Aarrrrhhhh! and Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat! - a tried and 
true formula for audience fascination. As an added lure, 
Gangbusters offered nationally broadcast clues to aid in 
the capture of bloodthirsty criminals "who more than 
likely you would encounter sometime during the 
coming week."^** 

Herman Brown, sound-effects man for Inner 
Sanctum, perfected body bashing by devising a 
bludgeon with which to strike a small melon. A juicy, 
hollow, squishy sound resulted, evoking the proper 
amount of revulsion for the Sanctum's murderous 
deeds. Sherlock Holmes, The Fat Man, Ellery Queen, 
Front Page Farrell, Casey, Crime Photographer, Sam 
Spade, Charlie Chan all had their slot in the radio crypt. 
Besides these full-time professional death stalkers, 
amateur sleuths abounded - even the soaps were not 
immune to the murder malady; Ma Perkins was a part 
time crime-tracker.^^ 

Baby Snooks, an illustrious enfant terrible, "was pretty 
fearsome ... the whole menage - Fanny Brice as Baby 
Snooks, Hanley Stafford as Daddy, and the unheard 
baby brother, Robespierre - had a sadistic streak. Baby 
Snooks would execute some torture on Robespierre - 
boiling him in his bottle sterilizer, maybe - and then 
Daddy would painfully worm the truth out of her. The 
sign-off was Baby Snooks bawling at the top of Fanny 
Brice's lungs as Daddy walloped her from here to 
Tuesday. "'°" Parental child molestation must have been 
more easily tolerated over the ether than out of the tube. 

Violence obviously ran rampant in radio - a lurid, 
lamentable fascination with the pain and panic of 
macabre murder and crime was available on all 
networks, and 41 per cent of those surveyed by 
Lazarsfeld in 1948 cited mystery programs as their 
evening listening preference."" In his usual colourful 
style, Gershon Legman metaphorically screamed for 
attention to be paid to the content of the ether: "Does 
anyone find anything unwholesome in radio 
'entertainment' - the soap-, crime-, and horse-operas - 
goosing Gothic masochism into mama in the morning 
(or she cannot work), titillating frustrated papa with 


horror until midnight (or he cannot sleep), dinning 
lynch law into little Junior before supper (or he will not 
eat). Perversion as incentive, soporific, digestive!"'"^ 
Writing in 1949, he was about 16 years too late in 
asking his question, and a few years too early to arrive 
at an answer. 

Pleas were occasionally voiced for radio critics to 
perform an adversary role with regard to tawdry 
commercial programming in the 1930s and 1940s but 
the pleas remained basically unanswered.'"^ A Variety 
survey done in January 1946 found only 13 American 
radio editors offering regular constructive criticism; 
some papers actually forbade radio columns."*^ In 1966, 
Lawrence Laurent, a critic for the Washington Post, 
claimed that no relationship had ever been established 
between favourable (or even unfavourable) reviews, and 
the success of a television series. '°-'' 

Criticism of the glorification of violence and crime in 
children's radio dramas began in 1933, soon after their 
initial airing. Early that year, the Parent-Teachers 
Association of Fox Meadow School in Scarsdale, New 
York, surveyed mothers' and children's preferences 
regarding quality in juvenile radio programs. The 
mothers objected to 35 of 40 offerings because of 
concern that children's speech would be composed of 
bad grammar and the children's nerves would be 
"shattered," resulting in nightmares of horror. The 
Scarsdale group also discovered that programs rated 
most objectionable by parental standards were most 
favoured by the kids."^^ 

Following the February, 1933, McMath kidnapping 
which closely paralleled an Eno Crime Club scenario, 
New York City Police Commissioner James Bolan, 
postulated that aerial crime yarns were liable to give 
dangerous ideas to young America. "^^ Similar opinions 
were offered in pta meetings, child study groups, and 
suburban living-rooms - the periodical press became a 
forum of debate on the possibly detrimental effects that 
injection of intrigue and suspense might have on young 
psyches. Implicit in objections to sex and violence via 
screen or ether is the fear that viewer or auditor would 
imitate the objectionable example. Robert Davis's study 
of the periodical press revealed that charges connecting 
radio programs to juvenile violence were uncommon 
before World War II; only occasionally did parents 
complain about the influence of radio as a factor in 
their children's behaviour."'^ Empirical research was 
scanty and uncertainty existed then, as now, about the 
actual influence of aerial crime waves on listeners. 
While agreement was widespread that radio violence 
was probably not beneficial to its listeners, others 
supported the view that listening to violence could have 
a cathartic effect, thereby reducing violent behaviour. "^^ 

In Robert J. Landry's 1946 book. This Fascinating 
Radio Business, he reports a study done several years 
earlier which found no unanimity of attitude to any one 
radio program or custom. Some parents surveyed 
claimed too much stress had been placed on gangsters. 

others pressed for likable villains; some boycotted the 
products of those who sponsored aerial "blood and 
thunder," others merely spoke of the nuisance of 
children writing to advertisers about their give-aways; 
some appreciated the radio as a baby-sitter, others felt 
kids should be playing outdoors. Debate on the worth 
of children's radio programming was to rage for years. 
On the one side were broadcasters and advertisers, with 
considerable support from educators, who believed that 
radio ( 1 ) expanded the understanding of children. (2) 
quickened their perceptions, (3) familiarized them with 
current events, (4) sharpened their powers of attention 
at an early age, (5) generally improved speech and 
vocabulary, (6) excited an interest in foreign places. In 
opposition to these optimists, were those who claimed 
that: (1) programs frightened, upset, and over-excited 
children; (2) they caused nightmares; (3) they 
encouraged children to parrot silly and stupid catch 
phrases [parents apparently did not consider their own 
use of "wanna buy a duck?" and "voss you dere. 
Sharlie?" as objectionable]; (4) radio's commercial 
sponsorship converted children into nags who tried to 
influence their parents' shopping.'"' Landry's survey 
made no mention of crime program incentive for 
juvenile delinquency, seemingly following Davis's pre- 
war pattern, when parents were more concerned with 
individual internal psychological effects, rather than 
possible wide-scale social pathology. 

In response to protests by parents and teachers, 
broadcasters promised such children's classics as 
Treasure Island, Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers, and 
initiated a new boys' serial, based on the illustrious life 
of Tom Mix, film star, cowboy, soldier, and U.S. 
Marshal'" - all of which appear to have been as 
concerned with violence as the programs they replaced. 
As historical off'erings, however, their remote violence 
may have been more acceptable. This pattern has been 
evident in the film industry and historical merit has 
been similarly employed to justify early blood and gore 
on television westerns."^ Nigel Bruce, who played Dr. 
Watson on the radio, claimed that old-fashioned stories 
were a great tonic in times of stress. He explained the 
popularity of Sherlock Holmes during the Second World 
War as an escape device from the all-pervasive horrors 
of battle in Britain; the problems of a long-ago Scotland 
Yard were more easily faced than the then current 

General broadcasting criticism was almost non-ex- 
istent during the 1930s but the anti-crime war directed 
at children's programming continued to rage through 
1934, largely owing to various organizations which were 
specifically founded to pressure broadcasters into 
program improvement. In September that year, 
10,000.000 members of the Women's National Radio 
Committee began lobbying to clean up the airwaves. 
Using the subtle, but commercially painful, means of 
threatened boycott rather than Carrie Nation tactics, 
the WNRC succeeded, via the fcc in chasing a contra- 


ceptive jelly program off the air and expressed similar 
distaste regarding laxative and femmine hygiene adver- 
tisements. CBS complied in 1935, by cutting commercial 
announcements to ten percent of broadcast periods, 
deleting sponsors' blackmail pleas to buy products, 
avoiding excessively rapid speech and poor diction 
when depicting radio characters, and dropping adver- 
tising accounts involving "unpleasant discussions of 
bodily functions.""'* 

The UNRC lauded the CBS move of July 1935, in hiring 
a consultant child psychologist to filter "sensational 
hocus pocus" from juvenile scenarios and replace it 
with "useful knowledge," though general comedy and 
excitement would remain to avoid pedantry. After 
hstening to widespread official and amateur criticism, 
NBC scheduled five new programs (in addition to its ten 
hours per week of children's off'erings) to serve as 
"psychological models.""^ When the wnrc petitioned 
the National Association of Broadcasters in 1935, they 
requested a constant supply of such "model programs" 
from 5 to 8 o'clock daily - as with television some years 
later, the radio must have also served as an electric 

Robert E. Davis suggested that network response in 
program modification placated the critics until the 
attack was renewed in 1937, with a third wave occurrmg 
in 1945."^ Maurice Shelby's 1970 study employed an 
index measuring intensity of criticism, and discovered 
that criticism was largely negative from 1933-1942 with 
peaks occurring in 1935 and 1939. Fully 93 percent of 
all negative criticism of children's programming was 
aimed at adventure programs, principally at adventure 
serials. Thirty per cent of the criticism was directed at 
specific programs, most based on program ratings 
supplied by such organized groups as the United 
Parents Association; seven per cent acknowledged that 
some fare was "bad" but claimed parental control over 
listening was the answer to the issue; 51 per cent treated 
a variety of topics, none of which occupied more than 
three per cent of the total amount of criticism devoted 
to children's programming. Themes such as those 
delineated by Landry emerged: too much radio 
listening promoted passivity; unorthodox methods of 
persuasion in commercials were immoral; greater 
creativity was needed in the production of children's 
programs; use of poor English debased language devel- 
opment; anti-social conduct was promoted by some 
programs, and adventure programs cultivated juvenile 
delinquency. The view that too much violence was 
detrimental to children apparently clustered in 1935, 
1939. and 1945, but only J 2 per cent of the criticism 
between 1933 and 1948 expressed the concern that 
violence on radio programs, was unhealthy for 

Apparently the 12 per cent evident in the periodical 
press represented only the tip of the proverbial iceberg - 
late in 1938, George Payne, Federal Communications 
Commissioner, after stating that children's 

programming should be cleaned up and their night- 
mares ended, announced he was "swamped" with the 
largest amount of mail he had ever received on a 
controversial subject. "** Veiled threats by fcc Chairman 
Prall in 1935, and later in 1938 by Chairman Payne, 
were never officially carried out. In 1939 the fcc did, 
however, release a memorandum to broadcasters 
enumerating "undesirable" programs depicting 
"torture" and "excessive suspense" in children's fare,'^° 
and the revised self-regulating Code that the National 
Association of Broadcasters adopted that year pledged 
the removal of overly-stimulating material from 
children's programming.'^' Federal regulation of 
programming had been successfully circumvented 

NBC and CBS drastically reduced and laundered their 
children's programming after 1939 (causing youngsters 
to switch to adult horror instead), but abc and Mutual 
continued to air serialized and non-serialized adven- 
tures throughout the 1940s. After a lull in media 
criticism generally during the war years, the vituperative 
attack on radio renewed itself, as the amount of time 
devoted to children's adventure drama increased in the 
post-war period. '^^ Social critics sought an explanation 
for the rising tide of juvenile delinquency, and radio's 
emphasis on crime and violence was again subjected to 
scrutiny. '^^ Once more pleas were heard for the devel- 
opment of alternatives to juvenile "blood and thunder" 
melodramas, and the illogicality of stressing "crime 
does not pay" with murderous how-to's was repeated 
time and again. '^"^ abc and Mutual aired their violence 
at the same time and there was some suggestion that 
these networks competed for the audience by piling 
horror on horror.'" Gilbert Seldes, writing in 1950, 
estimates that some 1,500 murders took place each week 
on the air. These figures did not include the murders 
meditated or suspected in the daytime soaps, but only 
the manslaughter specially arranged for children's 
programs. '^^ Albert Williams, writing in Saturday 
Review, noted that almost no choice existed in children's 
programming, as mostly adventure dramas were 
offered, which, in turn, caused kids to switch to the 
greater variety of adult fare. Robert Landry claimed an 
advertising aphorism was in existence during the 1930s 
and 1940s that children were allergic to kid's programs, 
and also stated that children preferred adult 
programs. '^^ 

It is typical of pressure groups to be concerned with 
the youth of a society, because young malleable minds 
are still subject to corrupting influences.'^* It is inter- 
esting that the late-night exercises in sluggings, 
muggings, shootings, murders, and tortures, essentially 
aired as adult entertainment, apparently evinced no 
concern about any possible negative influence which 
they might have on the more "mature" elements of 
North American culture. Yet the greatest hoax in the 
world (even greater because it was not planned as a 
hoax) - the 1938 broadcast of Orson Welles's Mercury 


rhcatrc prodiictii)n of The War of the Worlds - exqui- 
sitely illuminated the incredible gullibility, vulnerability, 
and general unconsciousness of adult American radio 
listeners. The incident caused such embarassment and 
mass hysteria that three years later many listeners 
refused to believe reports of the Pearl Harbour 
bombing; "they simply winked knowingly and waited 
for the commercial."'^'* One might have expected that 
the audience reactions to the broadcast would have 
sparked a wave of indignation regarding the imitative 
effects of radio thrillers on adults, but all it created in 
the U.S. was a renewed battle regarding public versus 
private control of radio. 

Canadian reaction to the broadcast paralleled the 
American attitude. The Globe and Mail found the 
broadcast "regrettable," and expressed alarm at radio's 
potential for enemy propaganda if unregulated. Though 
only one private Toronto station carried the broadcast. 
The War of the Worlds was heard by many Canadians 
who received it directly from American stations. 
Reactions were mixed: Jerry Shea, manager of Shea's 
Hippodrome, said "they should all be arrested for 
allowing such a broadcast," A. J. Anderson, an M.P. for 
High Park, termed it "the next thing to sacrilege," 
Toronto Mayor Ralph Day and Controller J. D. 
McNigh hesitatingly suggested that frightening horror 
programs might be censored or eliminated, others 
claimed it was a cheap publicity stunt. The expressed 
concern was vaguely directed more toward the hoax 
and its political implications than to the audience 
effects. '■^'^ Journalist Dorothy Thompson used the 
Welles broadcast as an argument against government 
monopoly control of radio; as evidence that popular 
universal education was failing to train reason and logic 
in those educated; as proof that the popularization of 
radio was not an information tool promoting citizen 
scepticism, but rather led to mass gullibility; and as 
evidence of the power of mass suggestion cautioning 
against its use for the creation of mass prejudices. But 
no mention was made of the effects of horror and 
violence upon the audience.'^' The issue of social 
control was essentially divorced from the issue of 
specific content. 

A 1948 survey indicated that 15 per cent of the radio 
audience singled out mystery and crime programs for 
criticism, a number exceeded only by those critical of 
radio's commercialism. Almost ten years after the radio 
industry had promised to clean up its airwaves, adults 
were still complaining that the plethora of gory "who- 
dun-its" were bad or too exciting for children, while 
citing them high on their own list of favourite 
programs. '^^ As Legman inferred above, no one 
lamented papa's prurient interests - only when Junior 
was unmasked as a nailbiter was concern expressed 
over deleterious social effects. Albert Williams urged 
communities to pass civic ordinances if they could 
prove that crime and horror programs impeded the 
preservation of law and order. He pointed out "the ease 

with which zealous citizens in hinterland cities could 
pass ordinances and what a flood of restrictions just one 
ordinance would generate throughout the entire 
country." '^^ However, concern expressed by parents, 
teachers, and p.sychologists, and the suggestions for 
action supplied by those such as Williams, never materi- 
alized in legislative form. 

Criticism of radio violence virtually expired in 1948, 
except for a few isolated incidents.'^" Though several 
serials still continued, attention shifted and television 
was now identified as the new causal factor in juvenile 
delinquency. Fifteen years of nagging complaints from 
parents, teachers, and child welfare organizations, 
countered by false promises from networks and adver- 
tisers, had ended, unresolved, and the same arguments 
were now transferred to "blood and thunder" on the 
home screen. In a scathing editorial written for The 
Saturday Review, Norman Cousins complained about 
television programming, citing horrendous acts 
committed in imitation of television stories. He decried 
misuse of the entertainment medium and exploitation of 
the receptive trusting audience via violent programming 
and over-commerciahzation. He expressed disap- 
pointment at the lack of utilization of television's 
potential for creative entertainment and noted that for 
every worthwhile offering on the screen there was much 
garbage to watch. Cousins complained about the gross 
perpetuation of the myth that the average American's 
intelligence level was that of a 12-year-old. as reflected 
in the programming fare, and noted that such underesti- 
mation had already hurt movies, radio and some pulp 
magazines. He further pointed out that parental 
enjoyment of violent television implied a sanction of the 
actions shown, causing discrepancy in children's 
minds. '^^ All were arguments previously employed 
against radio. According to a 1947 Variety survey, little 
real content change occurred in children's radio serials 
between 1933 and 1947.'^^ Shelby concurs. No 
significant correlation was found in his study between 
amount of negative criticism and time devoted to 
children's radio adventure melodramas.'-''' 

Amidst the vociferous cries for a shut-down of shoot- 
outs on the radio, many calm, rational, rights-conscious 
individuals had also managed to express their views. 
Mrs. Sidonie Matsner Gruenberg, director of the Child 
Study Association of America, an organization 
concerned with research in child welfare, termed much 
of the protest "hysterical." She pointed out that the 
negative approach of imposed partisan preference was 
unproductive, and not an ethical improvement over the 
situation to which angry parents objected. The adage 
that "alarm is always more articulate than approval" 
was tossed into the forum - parental disapproval of 
existing programs was vocal; little response was elicited 
when approved programs were deleted from the 
schedule. '^^ The psychologist Josette Frank extolled the 
escape function of serial dramas. She claimed children 
could find no adventure on citv or suburban streets, in 


communities hedged with restrictions, in shrinkmg 
homes, ill-planned playgrounds and school routine. 
With radio, children could live dnagerously yet remain 
within the secure frame of their homes, a radio function 
which she considered quite vital in middle class 
American childhood. '^"^ 

Valid, reliable, and thorough social scientific research 
on the effects of crime program listening on children 
was rare until a 1949 doctoral dissertation by Edward 
Ricciuti.'''" His review of the literature indicated that 
psychological research into the eff"ects of habitual radio 
listening on audiences was virtually non-existent. 
Human research obviously had not kept pace with 
radio's technical advancements. Ricciuti noted that 
interest in children's reactions to radio programs had 
been generated in 1931 by the advent of specifically 
child-oriented broadcasts. The Scarsdale study of 1933, 
mentioned above, was the first to receive wide public 
notice, but it and later studies were concerned with 
analysis or collection of data on listening habits, 
program patterns, attitudes toward broadcasts, opinions 
of parents and teachers on the state of the broadcasting 
art or research into the effectiveness of commercials. 
Mothers' opinions and isolated incidents were touted as 
indicative of the possible pathology produced by 
habitual listening to crime and adventure programs. 

Ricciuti observed that broadcasters had accepted 
such evidence and reacted by modifying their 
programming without certainty as to the existence of 
relationships between habitual listening to specific types 
of radio programs and the attitudes and behaviours of 
children. However, as indicated above, only nbc and 
CBS had altered their children's fare in response to 
public, if not social scientific, demand, and all networks 
continued to air adult crime and mystery shows. 

In his research, Ricciuti studied listening habits of 
3,125 public school pupils in the fifth to eighth grades. 
Over 90 per cent of the children studied indicated that 
they listened to comedy-variety and to crime drama 
programs; Ricciuti interpreted this finding as largely 
due to the high availability of these genres, and claimed 
the high percentage reflected children's need for the 
tension-releasing experiences of radio programs which 
supplied light entertainment and humour, and the 
tension-creating experiences off'ered by crime drama 
programs. He discovered that children were less inter- 
ested in exciting programs with an openly expressed 
"crime does not pay" approach than they were in 
straight murder-mystery drama, an attitude Ricciuti 
considered comparable to the popularity of mystery 
stories among adults. Anti-crime, crime-drama, daily 
adventure, modern music and soap-opera programs, 
while not contributing anything positive to their 
listeners, were not found to be harmful to children in 
general. Contrary to the contentions of some parents, 
child study organizations, and M. I. Preston (see below), 
no significant differences were found between listeners 
and non-listeners to crime-drama, anti-crime drama, 

and daily adventure serials on measures of nervous 
habits, fears, and daydreaming. He did conclude that 
different radio programs had different meanings for 
children of varying ages and suggested that parental 
guidance in radio listening was essential. 

Azriel Eisenberg's painstaking and comprehensive 
research of 1935 involved data collection from children 
who reported their thinking regarding the influence of 
radio on their dreams, behaviour, scholastic achieve- 
ment, general knowledge, character, and personality 
development. On the basis of the youths' reports, the 
beneficial eff'ects of radio outweighed by far the harmful 

M. I. Preston conducted a 1941 study which 
discovered that nervousness, generalized fears, fears of 
kidnapping, sleeping disturbances, eating disturbances, 
nailbiting, callousness, daydreaming in school, and sex 
interest were more prevalent among movie horror and 
radio crime addicts than among non-addicts, and 
suggested parental control, restriction of frequency of 
indulgence, elimination of crime and horror stories, and 
substitution of suitable recreational and social pastimes 
as treatment for those adversely afflicted by their 
addiction.''*^ Ricciuti, whose findings conflicted with 
those of Preston, criticized her work as being based on a 
biased sample. (Preston's subjects were children who 
had sought private or clinical care.) He further charged 
that Preston had a preconception of detrimental results 
in her subjects from listening to and watching horror 
and crime stories, an attitude reflected in her report. 
Like Ricciuti, Florence Heisler in 1948 also failed to 
find significant academic or personality differences 
between movie, comic book and radio serial addicts, 
and those who never or seldom indulged. '''^ 

Josette Frank, in a 1948 review article of psychiatric 
opinion, reported generally favourable attitudes toward 
radio adventure programs among the psychiatrists 
surveyed, though Dr. Augusta Alpert admitted concern 
about the cumulative effect of the threefold 
bombardment of children's minds by violence in radio, 
the movies, and comics. Dr. Simon Tulchin cautioned 
against weighing the effects of thrillers in terms of an 
adult viewpoint rather than a child's reactions: while an 
adult views violence in a meaningful context, the child's 
lack of experience does not allow him/her to attach 
meaning to violent events. Dr. Reginald Laurie noted 
that when children had engaged in competitive and 
exciting play of their own fewer of them listened to the 
radio, thereby supporting the aforementioned 
hypothesis that adventure, crime, and horror programs 
filled vicarious needs; when these needs were satisfied 
children no longer listened to blood and thunder.'"*^ 
Recurring comments such as these, combined with the 
undeniable commercial appeal of the thrillers, probably 
explain the impotence of pressure group protests in 
America regarding "blood and guts" on the radio. 

A relative lack of specific Canadian criticism of radio 
violence existed during this period of heavy American 


censure, which can only be somewhat arbitrarily 
explained. Lack of exposure to the crime programs was 
probably not a factor in the comparative absence of 
critical complaint - a 1938 survey of high school 
students indicated that 93 per cent listened to American 
programs, with their favourites in the comedy/variety 
field. More than half listened "habitually" to radio 
stories of American crime. '''^ Similarly, a poll taken of 
an adult Toronto sample by The Canadian Forum, 
showed that 90 per cent had radios, of whom 80 per 
cent actually preferred American programming to 
Canadian, and the drama category was most 
favoured.''** The U.S. network features held "great 
interest for Canadian listeners, particularly at night." '''^ 
At the 1935 Conference on Canadian-American Affairs, 
Graham Spry summed up Canadian affinity for 
imported entertainment: "The radio audience of North 
America is North American, but the performance is 
American; the audience listens not to North America, 
but to the United States."''*** Paul Lazarsfeld found that 
41 per cent of his study group preferred mystery in the 
U.S. Since American adult airwaves also served large 
helpings of "blood and gore," it therefore seems likely 
that the flow of the signals across the border allowed 
both Canadians and Americans to indulge in the chiller 
thrillers, or at least off'ered the audience the opportunity 
for exposure to this type of material.''*^ 

Major William Borrett, director of a Halifax radio 
station during the 1930s, viewed the influx of American 
broadcasting as of positive value in promoting interna- 
tional friendliness and understanding, qualities notice- 
ably, but not seriously, impaired through irritation at 
obsessive American commercialism and chauvinism. 
According to Borrett. Canadians felt "too grateful for 
the splendour of the musical entertainment to complain 
of its setting in tooth-paste advertisements." The prolif- 
eration of "gangster" and "hold-up" radio pieces appar- 
ently produced in the Maritimes "disgust and a touch of 
contempt" for American life and institutions. '^° No 
mention was made of damage resulting to listeners of 
"gangster" and "hold-up" programs, though such 
evidence of motion picture influences is widely cited in 
the Canadian context. Canadian moral opposition to 
radio was far less marked than opposition to motion 
pictures; the appeal of nationalism was much 

A search of standard periodical indexes, the index to 
the Parliamentary debates, and the New York Times 
index for the period in which American opposition to 
violence in radio drama strongly evidenced itself, failed 
to elicit a similar public outcry in Canada. Even 
Sergeant Renfrew, that illustrious movie exam.ple of 
Canadian justice, shining in his noble red Mountie 
uniform, was not terribly upset about the prepon- 
derance of violent radio serials on the radio air. In 
Renfrew of the Northwest Mounted ( 1937). he stood 
outside a cabin and heard a tremendous commotion 
inside; the cabin door was artlessly bashed in and 

Renfrew leaped to the rescue. Upon finding a fellow 
officer listening to a crime serial on the radio, his rescue 
attempt thwarted. Renfrew merely shrugged and 
commented that there was nothing like a little radio 
violence for excitement. Such organizations as the 
Montreal Kiwanis Club did adopt resolutions 
connecting violent radio thrillers tojuvenile delin- 
quency and petitioned the 1944 Radio Committee for 
removal of this perceived social threat, but no legislative 
action resulted. '^^ 

During the aforementioned 1935 conference on 
Canadian-American Aff'airs held at the height of the 
American protests against radio violence and crime 
from various pressure groups, discussion concentrated 
on variances between the defunct frc and the failing 
CRBC, especially regarding freedom of opinion in contro- 
versial matters. As Angus pointed out, the perceived 
threat to cultural nationalism was an important issue in 
Canadian radio opinion, as was a lengthy preoccu- 
pation with public versus private ownership systems, 
commercial versus sustaining programming, ongoing 
concerns regarding reception, licensing, controversial 
political and religious broadcasting, news censorship, 
and, of course, crbc and cbc expenditure on program- 
ming. Perhaps, noting the futility of American lobbyists 
on the issue, Canadians recognized that international 
criticism of the offending programming could have little 
more success than did such protests to networks and 
advertisers from their neighbours to the south. 

Canadian legal control over broadcasting included 
investiture in the cbc of the power to control the 
character of any and all programs broadcast by it or by 
private stations; but it had, of course, no control over 
the infiltration of the airwaves by American 
broadcasting.'-^^ A 1937 cbc regulation prohibited the 
broadcasting of anything contrary to the law - 
presumably a legal wizard could have prosecuted those 
responsible for airing any programs even remotely 
advocating murder . . . but no such attempt was ever 

During the 1944 proceedings of the parliamentary 
Radio Broadcasting Committee, the topic of radio 
violence emerged. When told that a Montreal Kiwanis 
Club had submitted a petition to the cbc regarding their 
displeasure at the number of crime serials and horror 
shows on the air. Auguste Frigon. cbc General 
Manager, agreed that the problem was a topic of cbc 
concern. He spoke of a committee composed of cbc 
members, advertisers and private broadcasters, newly 
formed to study the issue and hastened to point out that 
the cbc did not carry the broadcasts in question. '"'■* 
Frigon later suggested that private Canadian radio 
stations eliminate crime and horror shows from their 
broadcast schedules, but official regulations were never 
made. '55 

While debating a Criminal Code amendment in 1954. 
M.P.s Hansell and Zaplitnv off'ered suggestions to 
include radio and television in Section 150-151 of the 


Code as media of publication whose program content 
could then be prosecuted when found to corrupt public 
morals.'^*' Crime comics were banned and the comment 
was made that radio and television also depicted crimes, 
and should therefore be subject to the same law. The 
comments appear to have been isolated and did not 
draw debate from the other Honourable Members. This 
aberrant incident would appear, from the index to the 
debates, to have been the only case where radio's trans- 
mission of crime stories drew House of Commons 
disapproval; the disapproval did not appear to have 
been taken seriously. 

As mentioned above, it is logical for pressure groups 
to be concerned with mass media effects on the young, 
but it is surprising that more research was not done on 
adult reactions to radio content. Pressure-group 
reactions to soap opera programs almost paralleled that 
of radio violence and were similarly unsuccessful in 
attempts at legislative control. 

Dr. Louis Berg, a New York writer and psychiatrist, 
began a crusade against radio soap operas in 1941. He 
considered serials dangerous to middle-aged women, 
adolescents, and neurotics because they furnished "the 
same release for the emotionally distorted that is 
supplied to those who derive satisfaction from a 
lynching bee, who lick their lips at the salacious 
scandals of a crime passionel, who in the unregretted 
past cried out in ecstasy at a witch burning."'^^ Berg 
claimed physiological damage resulted from listening to 
the daytime serial: rising blood pressure, vasomotor 
instability, profuse perspiration, nightmares, tachy- 
cardia and gastro-intestinal disturbances.'^^ Others 
complained that the serials fed housewife insecurity by 
supplying simplistic moral solutions to problems, or 
lauded them for supplying "borrowed experience," 
thereby making the housewife's lot less dreary and 
serving two functions: escape, and a source of guidance 
in their daily lives. '^"^ Some groups suggested that the 
soaps were unwholesome because they dealt with 
murder, insanity, medical operations, jealousy . . . '^° 

In March 1940, Westchester women's clubs reported 
that their "I'm not listening" campaign, a boycott of 
objectionable, demeaning radio soap operas and 
cliffhangers, had spread to 39 states. At a luncheon with 
radio executives, the women were told that audiences 
would not enjoy programs of a higher quality and as 
long as the soap operas profitably peddled their 
product, they would continue to be aired. '^' In 1946, the 
FCC suggested that broadcasters should cease "piling 
up" soap operas during the morning, resulting in a 
counter-attack from the nab regarding attempted 
imposition of control and hindrance of freedom of 
speech. '^^ 

The soaps were criticized for ignoring larger social 
problems, emphasizing instead more personal aspects of 
life. As with the crime serials, networks responded by 
injecting some social realism into the story: when crime- 
show bad guys became wartime enemies, soap plots 

involved war bond sales, and race relations were treated 
in their scenarios as a means of easing tensions in the 
army. Campaigns were launched against drug abuse 
and VD, and advocated pap smears; heroine Stella 
Dallas even began working in a munitions factory. '^^ 
While crime and horror programs subsisted on varia- 
tions of one theme, the chase, '^'* soap operas revolved 
around five domestic issues'^^ and one major plot: 
getting the characters out of a long series of 
"troubles. "'^^ Frankel commented that crime-story 
heroes were invariably ordinary individuals with rough 
edges, stamina, and hearts of gold; villains were sophis- 
ticated, educated, spoke precisely and fluently; he 
inferred a dilemma for children's character 

Soap-opera goodies and baddies might be similarly 
reduced to a dilemma-inducing situation. The soaps had 
three basic characters: the weak, the good and strong, 
and the villain; the latter two fought over the weak one 
and determined his/her fate. The philosophical orien- 
tation of the plots flattered and thereby reinforced the 
prejudices of the audiences. Men were discriminated 
against: twice as often as women, men were the source 
of other people's problems. Difficult situations were 
frequently resolved by women who were more 
competent than the men who were supposed to do the 
particular job. A middle-class flavour prevailed in the 
radio soaps: rich people were belittled and saved from 
their ineptitude by a common middle-class individual; 
labourers were practically non-existent. 

Paul Lazarsfeld nonetheless considered these radio 
stereotypes an improvement over those in motion 
pictures; he claimed the latter dealt mainly with the 
wealthy, whose experiences were far removed from that 
of ordinary men and women. He reported in his study 
with Herta Herzog that no evidence existed to substan- 
tiate claims that radio serials made women less respon- 
sible citizens and led them into emotional difficulties.'^* 

The Women's Institute of Audience Reactions 
surveyed housewives and reported that the serials made 
work seem lighter; they provided guidance and inspira- 
tion; they also supplanted reading, thereby saving eyes 
and time; they provided an escape from personal 
troubles; created anticipation and suspense in routine 
lives; satisfied an appetite for entertainment; and 
finally, and by no means less importantly, they dispelled 
loneliness. Over 20,000,000 women were found to listen 
to radio serials daily. Louis Berg discounted the advan- 
tages cited by such listeners and compared housewife 
anxiety, which he claimed was induced by the soaps, to 
that produced by enemy propaganda. He believed this 
parallel could lay the ground for civilian panic in 
emergencies and would sap the productive energies of 
afflicted individuals in all their essential efforts. Like 
Lazarsfeld, however, nik psychiatrists did not discover 
pathology in those who listened to radio soap operas.'*^ 

While parents waved banners against their children's 
radio fare, their own favourite daytime serials were also 


a subject of unresolved controversy regarding listener ill 
effect and night-time horror remained unconsidered in 
this regard. This inconsistency never emerged outside 
Legman's lamentations, though it should have been 

As late as 1950, isolated incidents cropped up of 
complaint against media violence in radio, though these 
usually involved conjunct disapproval of television fare. 
Jack Gould of The New York Times complained that 
both radio and television had used murder, mayhem, 
and assorted felonies to inexpensively fill their summer 
replacement schedules.'™ While not expecting or 
demanding a ban of mystery shows he did feel "a lurid 
tale about a two-timing wife and her husband who was 
beaten to death with a beer bottle" was inappropriate to 
follow Jack and the Beanstalk on a Saturday morning 
radio schedule. Gould counted 85 separate time periods 
on radio during a week in July of 1950 in which violence 
was a major theme and lamented that television was 
"just as bad." He appreciated that the need for 
economy of time necessitated major emphasis on 
action, thereby sacrificing suspense and characteriza- 
tion, but pleaded for moderation and self-control 
among the broadcasters. He optimistically rationalized 
the preponderance of radio and television violence by 
stating that ultimately the then current preponderance 
of radio and television violence and crime would be 
tempered by the public itself. His astute perception of a 
rationale for violent programs was somewhat deflated 
by his naive comparison of the public temperament 
toward violence to that of the rampant give-away 
shows; inferring the eventual demise of both genres: 
from a 1976 perspective, his absurd naivete is obvious. 
Public demand has kept crime, violence, and soap- 
opera neuroticism on the air despite the complaints of 
social scientists, social agencies, and concerned 


Radio was a crude toy in its embryonic period, but was 
carefully nurtured into infancy by technological 
improvements shared in a "patent pool" among the 
manufacturers. Public acceptance of the medium was 
almost instantaneous and the communications neonate 
rapidly matured into a huge industry. Though regarded 
as villainous by newspaper and magazine publishers 
who feared the advertising threat, and by phonograph 
manufacturers, cinema, theatre and circus industrialists 
who felt their audiences dwindle, the listening pubHc 
was initially enthralled by radio and its programmed 
entertainment. Through radio, the world entered homes 
via a simple turn of the dial and millions of people 
borrowed experience from their electric companions. 

Radio was lauded for its democratic nature and 
termed a communications medium for the masses, and 
in true democratic fashion its right to, and practice of, 
freedom of speech was proclaimed often by broad- 
casters, industrialists, critics, educators, and politicians. 

But radio is not and never has been free. Technical, 

financial, and creative limitations all operate as gate- 
keeping parameters even from the initial stages of 
attempted access to the air waves. Broadcaster bias, 
political influence, presumptuous protection of public 
naivete, commercial appeal regardless of intrinsic 
worth, all operate as prior censors in addition to legal 
restrictions filtering programs from the public view. The 
most effective censor of all, the on/off" switch, was only 
the last element in a long line of perusals. Great Britain 
is characterized as having a broadcasting system which 
is highly controlled; the United States claims its system 
is based on freedom of speech; Canada has taken 
elements of the best and worst of both ideals: public 
network ownership has offered an intelligent cultural 
alternative to the private, commercially dependent 
sector, though both occasionally have allowed freedom 
of enterprise to override freedom of speech. All three 
systems have worked well for their respective countries: 
all three countries, regardless of their broadcast philoso- 
phies, have had similar problems regarding the 
treatment of views on any subject which are dissimilar 
to accepted societal norm - political, religious, social 
censorship can all operate to reinforce the status quo. or 
serve as educative alternatives; it would appear that 
neither policy has operated consistently in any of the 
three nations. 

The issue of violence in radio caused national 
concern only in the United States, perhaps because no 
other land had quite the same abundance of killing on 
the radio airwaves, broadcast solely for the sake of its 
macabre commercial potential for feeding the audience 
fascination with sadism. Despite an early lack of 
empirical evidence on harmful, beneficial, or indifferent 
eff'ects of listening to radio horror, controversy based 
upon personal opinion and isolated incidents was 
apparent throughout the 1930s and 1940s with regard to 
children's programming only; adult radio fare was not 
subject to severe criticism for its violent content. After 
1948, attention was diverted from radio program 
content to a concern with television crime and violence, 
using all the same arguments and protestations which 
had been employed in criticism of radio "blood and 

While parents held radio responsible for their 
children's sleeplessness, nightmares, and nervous habits, 
psychiatrists were of two basic opinions. One school 
held that children needed the outlet for aggression 
oflTered by mysteries, thrillers, and crime programs; the 
opposition believed aggression could be channelled 
more beneficially in other directions and that catering 
to the appetite for violence cultivated it. Concurrent 
with public criticism was a decision by some networks 
to broadcast mystery at later hours only, thereby still 
attending to adult preferences, while "protecting" the 
malleable minds of youth; other networks actually 
increased the time devoted to adventure programs for 
children. No correlation was found between the amount 


of negative public criticism and the amount of airtime 
devoted to the offending adventure thrillers. 

Studies undertaken with children found no essential 
differences between habitual listeners to radio crime 
and violence, and non-listeners; another found 
pathology ir the former group. Studies with habitual 
listeners to soap operas (which had also been criticized 
for their preoccupation with crime, murder, and verbal 
violence) were similarly discrepant: some studies found 
pathology, others could discover no difference between 
listeners and non-listeners. 

Although lobbying groups existed in the United 
States and, to a much lesser degree, in Canada and 
Britain, the three countries never perceived a need for 
official prophylactic measures against the social disease 
of glorified radio gore. 


Chapter Seven 

Comics: The Exception of Press Censorship 


Freedom of the press, an established fact of twentieth- 
century Canadian, British, and American Hfe, once 
again became an issue of intense debate, moral 
campaigning, pervasive extralegal censorship, and even 
legislated censorship in the Forties and Fifties. This 
time it was crime and horror comic books which 
became the focus of concern. Under the deceptive name 
of "funnies," they had been on the market for nearly ten 
years before parents, educators, religious groups, and 
governments discovered the "shocking nature of their 
stories." Three precedents were set during the contro- 
versy which are important as new forms of social 
control over the mass media.' 

For the first time, professional and "scientific" 
opinion was fully represented on both sides of the 
censorship issue, originally inspiring, and thereafter 
sustaining, the twenty-year battle against the comic 
books. Rallying the support of parents were the familiar 
Comstockian figures, the self-appointed guardians of 
youthful morality. However, once aroused to the 
potential dangers of comic-book reading, vast networks 
of grass roots organizations emerged, and all over the 
world citizens' groups combated the internationally 
distributed "Yankee comics." By the twentieth century, 
Canadian, British, and American governments had 
assumed the role of protector of press freedom. During 
the years of controversy over the control of comic-book 
content, these governments abdicated their role to 
condone blacklisting and other extralegal censorship 
practices. Thus, the comic books became the exception 
to the growth of twentieth-century press freedom in 
these countries. With psychiatric, educational, religious, 
parental, and governmental sympathy on the side of 
censorship, comic-book contents were restricted by 
industry self-regulation in the United States, customs 
restrictions in Britain, and in Canada by a Criminal 
Code amendment. 

The Comic Strip 

The comic book had its immediate origin in the 
newspaper comic strip. The first comic book was simply 
a collection of popular newspaper strips, published in 

book format.^ Yet in style and content the comic book 
is more akin to the children's story papers or "pulps" of 
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. P.M. 
Pickard has called the comic book "a species of the 
penny dreadful" and noted a continuity of such 
characters as highwayman Dick Turpin.^ Another 
popular culture historian, James Steranko, traces the 
connection between the pulps and the comic book: 

In the late nineteenth century the 'bloody pulps' were selling in 
the millions, exploiting every subject imaginable: western, war, 
adventure, mystery, horror, science fiction - with an incredibly 
undisciplined vitality - built circulation on the public's 
voracious appetite for heroics. When the pulps approached 
saturation point, marketers found in the comics a new way to 
sell their product and thus came the Golden Age of the 

While the newspaper strips were generally disregarded 
in discussions of comic-book violence, several critics 
imply that violence in comic books was a culmination 
of the growing preponderance of violence in the strips 
during the 1930s. Bruce Hutchinson's content analysis 
of newspaper strips revealed that 100 per cent of the 
strips were comedy in 191 1. In 1939, they were 29 per 
cent violent content: in 1966, violence had been 
reduced to 16 per cent of the total.- Before the Thirties, 
non-comical strips were kept to a minimum in most 
Canadian. British, and American newspapers. The 
Toronto Star carried no serious strips in its Canada-wide 
weekly and only two in its daily.^ The early comics were 
all comedy for its own sake. The Thirties used comedy 
just to lighten heavy drama. By the Fifties a third major 
transition in comic-strip style led to a proliferation of 
strips aimed at specific audiences. Violence was 
minimized and replaced by representations of "types of 
common humanitv."' 

The strips have been interpreted as t^unctioning as a 
retreat from reality. As the harsh realities of the real 
world changed, the world of the comic strip changed to 
offer the appropriate escape. Thus, the early Twenties, 
featuring strips like Blondic. provided "an escape from 
reality into the old American Dream-life untrammeled 
by economic cares."** These characters had only trivial 
worries that were easilv corrected. A difl'erent cultural 


expression was created for the harsher atmosphere of 
the Thirties. The strips became compulsively concerned 
with power. Aaron Berkman, the sociologist, writing in 
the Thirties, describes this phenomenon: 

Today, attuned to the times the comic depicts the lives of 
gangsters, G-men, Babbitry, Alger book heroes - in fact, the 
whole social and cultural outlook of the average American is 
here presented to the . . . student [the ideological content of the 
average American's mind]. In fact, the comic strip may be said 
to contain, within itself the kind of 'neurosis' from which the 
public suffers and to which newspapers cater. . . . No doubt, 
the success of the comic strip lies partly in the fact that it is 
delivered in a form easy to digest. It is presented in small doses, 
affording temporary release. . . . The rugged individual, his 
desire to share the vicissitudes of fortune with his fellow man 
suppressed by the philosophy of dog eat dog, seeks solace from 
a harassing reality in the movies, the comic strip - venting his 
affections upon fictitious characters and Hollywood shadows, 
which, at their best, act as a mild laxative.' 

It was a Canadian, Harold Foster, who began the trend 
toward increased violence in the strips. In 1929 Foster 
illustrated "Tarzan of the Apes," whose instant 
popularity inspired "Buck Rogers," "Flash Gordon," 
"Dick Tracy," "Terry and the Pirates," and many more 
"adventure" strips. '° The strip "Dick Tracy," aroused 
considerable protest against its preoccupation with 
violence when it first appeared in 1931. "With Dick 
Tracy, the first civil murder was committed in the 
funnies."" Several papers dropped the strip's more lurid 
and brutal episodes but when it was conceded that 
violence in a context of unrealism was acceptable the 
strip became immensely popular. '- 

The value of the new violence in the strips was 
debated, though not widely. Gilbert Seldes denounced 
the new violence as merely a gimmick: 

I have nothing against the solution of violence of delicate 
problems, but . . . the snap ending of a blow, or failing that, one 
character in consternation at the brilliance of the others' wit, 
flying out of the picture with the cry of "ZOWIE," indicating 
his surcharge of emotion ... is not the same thing as the wilful 
violence of Mutt and Jeff, where the attack is due to the malice 
or stupidity of one character, the resentment or revenge of the 

On the other hand, violence in comic strips is excused 
with assertions that the violence is rarely realistic, and 
the heroes always uphold community values, and 
propagate the American way of life, however watered 
down or exaggerated.''* In addition, the strips can claim 
that while crime rates were increasing, strip violence 
decreased at a 50 per cent faster rate.'^ 

When the controversy over crime and horror in comic 
books began, The Newspaper Comic Council was 
formed to publicly enhance the differences between the 
strips and the comics.'^ Though numerous critics did 
not discriminate between the two forms of comics, the 
strips were not singled out as "objectionable." Several 
plausible reasons for strip sanctity in the face of 
imminent comic-book censorship have been advanced. 
First, newspaper editors themselves censored the strips. 

The creators of "Superman" originally planned it as a 
strip but when they could find no newspaper editor to 
accept the story, it appeared in comic book format.'^ 
Thus there was a tendency from the beginning for the 
comic books to accept and issue more violence than 
newspaper editors would allow. Of greater significance, 
however, was that newspaper strips were generally 
considered to be adult reading while the comic books 
were marketed specifically for children whose morals, it 
is believed, are more susceptible to corruption. 

Evolution of the Comic Book 

Although several collections of strips had been 
published prior to 1929, the comic book was not 
popular until after this date. At first, all comic books 
were simply extensions of the newspaper strip reading 
habit. Many were produced as premiums to boost 
newspaper circulations or the products of companies 
such as Procter and Gamble. Famous Funnies, published 
by Eastern Colour Printing in May of 1934 was still just 
a collection of reprints but, in format, it was the first 
modern comic book. Then, between 1934 and 1936, 
comic books appeared containing original stories. In 
essence, the modern comic book, in both content and 
format, had appeared. These early comics were, in the 
true sense of the word, "funnies" bearing titles such as 
More Fun and New Fun, published by Major Malcolm 
Wheeler. But the "funnies" did not corner the market. 
As early as 1937. the first of the bold, sensational 
comics. Detective Comics, was issued by Harry Donnen- 
feld. "A new tendency toward the incredible, fasci- 
nating, horrifying, thrilling, was beginning in the strip 
[during the same period] but the heroes of the comic 
books were to make strip heroes look like sissies."'* 

Superman was first issued in Action Comics in 1938, 
then came Batman. Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, 
Terry and the Pirates, and a plethora of hooded heroes. 
It was the costumed superhero syndrome which set the 
comic book industry on its feet and that has remained 
the most consistently popular. All these superheroes 
were featured in special World War II issues, fighting 
the Nazis and the Japanese, both at home and abroad. 
There were even encounters staged with Hitler himself. 
"World War II provided a most natural habitat for 
these hooded people to whip around in. Japanese and 
Nazi spies were roped in by the thousands as supermen 
tore around America cleaning it up."'^ 

"But there is more in comic books than fantasies of 
fisticuffs. "^'^ Among the most "objectionable" were 
western gunfighter stories, crime and detective stories, 
war and action comics like Frontline Combat some 
science fiction such as Weird Science, suspense in 
Suspenstories, and horror as portrayed in Tales from the 
Crypt and Vault of Horror. Of these, horror was the 
most popular. Yet there were also "good" comic books 
produced by Dell Publishers and William Gaines (ec 
Comics). In 1942. Dell Comics began to feature the 
Disney animal characters in comic book stories. There 


is "a strong and persistent moral impulse behind all of 
the animal comics . . . part o{' their intent is education" 
stated their publisher.-' William Gaines was involved 
more directly in education, publishing comics entitled 
Picture Stories from the Bible and Picture Stories from 
American History}^ 

Comic Books in Britain 

During World War 11, American solders were provided 
with war and superhero comic books with their rations. 
The solders passed them on to children in Allied and 
occupied countries and inadvertently created a world 
market for the American comic-book industry. 
Immensely popular among children, the contents of 
American comic books became a universal concern to 
parents and governments. 

The first comics for children in Britain were produced 
by Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe),^^ 
founder of Amalgamated Press. His intention was to 
produce funny, harmless pictures and stories for 
children to combat the influence of the "penny 
dreadfuls." Harmsworth's publications included Comic 
Cuts and Chips, which consisted of strip-like cartoons 
interspersed with jokes. Both were immensely popular 
between 1890 and 1950, selling at a halfpenny and 
undercutting the market for the "penny dreadfuls. "^'' 

The British comic books, a combination of 
instruction and information, lost their appeal to the 
British children who had been introduced to American 
comics during the War. When the "Dollar Bar" 
prevented the importation of comics, printing moulds of 
entire comics, together with copyrights, were sold to 
British publishers. American horror, crime, and 
superhero comics cut drastically into the pre-war circu- 
lations of Harmsworth's comics. -- 

The Canadian Comic Book Industry 

In Canada, World War II created, rather than 
disrupted, a comic-book industry. On December 6, 
1940, the Canadian government, to conserve foreign 
exchange credits, passed the War Exchange Conserv- 
ation Act which forbade the importation of certain 
"non-essential" items into Canada from non-sterling 
countries. The list of banned material included comic 
books. Toronto publisher Cyril Vaughan Bell stepped in 
to fill the vacuum. 

Bell's first comic book, iVow, included episodes of 
Edmund Legault's "Dart Daring," the dare-devil master 
swordsman, and "WTiiz Wallace," a U.S. navy pilot 
transported to the Invisible Planet. Although this first 
issue was in full colour. Bell found the colour process 
too lengthy and expensive and thereafter produced 
what were to be called the Canadian "Whites." Bell's 
comics, even without colour, were immensely popular in 
the absence of American competition. However, when 
the ban was lifted Bell ceased publication, unable to 
compete with the influx of multi-coloured American 

During the War, Bell produced five adventure titles: 
Wow, Triumph, Active, Dime, and Commando Heroes: 
two pure humour titles: Joke and Dizzy Don; and four 
featuring all-Canadian tales: Dixon of the Mounted. 
Neluana of the Northern Lights, Derek of Bras D'Or, and 
Johnny Canuck. His heroes, spies, detectives, war 
heroes, costumed heroes, and western heroes were strik- 
ingly similar to the Captain Marvels and Supermen 
south of the Border. The all-Canadian heroes, like their 
American counterparts, fought Nazis and Japanese 
across the ocean. In all. Bell produced two million 
comics in the course of the War. His only major compe- 
titors, Anglo-American Publishing Company, produced 
primarily re-drawn American strips of Captain Marvel. 

Bell asserts that he never allowed his comics to get 
"dirty" or unduly violent: 

A lot of our artists had quite a sense of the macabre and they 
used to hang around the morgue or the emergency depart- 
ments of the hospitals to see how dead people lay, or how it 
looked when a doctor shoved a hypodermic needle into 
somebody. They wanted to be able to draw that sort of thing 
accurately. And the artists were young fellows, and pretty 
much interested in sex. But we never allowed anything like that 
into our books. Our books had our own censorship committee, 
which was mainly me, and our books were clean. ^* 

Michael Hirsh and Patrick Laubert, authors of an 
intensive study of the Canadian comic book industry, 

In this claim. Bell has either broad standards or a poor 
memory. He's right about keeping explicit sex out of his plots, 
but his five non-humour titles had a high percentage of violent 
deaths and a goodly percentage of downright sadism. The 
latter often involved lush-bosomed young women - in scanty, 
clinging clothes - at the mercy of drooling torturers from 
prehistoric times or other planets or, most often, from Nazi 

Violent Content 

A brief glance at the pages of most comic books of this 
period is sufficient to convince anyone that violence 
predominates. However, there is more to this type of 
violence than meets the eye. Marilyn Graalfs did a 
content analysis of 351 comic books in 1954 and 

Violence can be portrayed both pictorially and verbally in 
comic books. Among fantasy stories, particularly, violence is 
underestimated if only actions shown in the frames are 
counted. The types of characters, plots, and settings contribute 
to violence by identifying them with realistic people and 

Example: A storv used for its plot a Pied Piper theme. The 
Piper tells the animals to revolt against their slave conditions. 
When thev attack, the hero refuses to listen to objections from 
the villagers when he kills the animals by destroying a bridge. 
"Don't you understand all those animals have learned to hunt 
humans and thev will pass that hatred on to their descendants 
if we let them?" The stor\ ends with the caption: "Where are 
the descendants of those animals today? Ever catch your cat 
staring steadily at you in the firelight or watch a horse look 
back at vou as vou cross behind him?" 


Language may be used to heighten the degree of horror by 

(1) encouraging the reader to anticipate it; 

Example: This first tale of Death and Suspense will keep you 
chilled to the bone right up to the terror-filled conclusion! The 
blood spills fast and often as Hazel [main character who 
murders husband] reaps the reward of a successful murder. 

(2) reinforcing superstitious notions about supernatural beings; 

Example; "Who can doubt the age-old horror of cosmic ghouls 
that roam the earth in search of prey . . . of countless things 
that walk by night," is the preface to a story about werewolves. 

(3) describing the feelings and attitudes of characters which 
cannot be revealed to the reader through pictures; 

Example: As a man gropes toward the figure of a woman 
outlined behind a lighted dressing screen, the caption above 
says, "Now you know why you were so interested in her white 
alabaster skin . . . the beautiful red lips, the creamy neck . . . 
now you know. He says, 'Can't wait any longer . . . must go to 
her . . . must kill, kill, kill!' " The last frames show he is a 

and (4) replacing pictures of brutality. 

Example: A woman kills her husband with a kitchen knife. 
Picture shows blood on the knife but no injury on the 
husband's body. "The rapier sharp blade sliced him directly 
between the shoulder blades . . . ." Then the woman dragged 
him to the pen where a crazed bull was kept. Caption: "Even a 
stomach as strong as Hazel's couldn't stand the sight of the 
Bull's attack on Ezra's corpse. Gagging she turned and fled 
back to the house." 

Finally, the sequence of events may in the absence of either 
words or pictures of any action create horror. 

Example: The story is about a man who gets entangled in a 
swamp. One frame shows him in the swamp and a huge vulture 
circling above in a downward direction. The next frame shows 
the man being carried out on a stretcher with bandages over 
his eyes.^' 

It is apparent that, even if pictorial representations of 
violence were removed from the comic books, 
numerous techniques remain by which violence would 
still predominate. In the face of -such techniques, 
controlling violent content becomes an arduous task. 

The Public Outcry 

Despite the violent nature of the comic books and their 
vast circulation,^' the first public outcry did not come 
until 1940. Children's author Sterling North was first to 
articulate what were to become standard, yet more 
heated criticisms of the comic books in the Chicago 
Daily News: 

Badly drawn, badly written, and badly printed - a strain on 
young eyes and young nervous systems - the effect of these 
pulp-paper nightmares is that of a violent stimulant. . . . Their 
crude blacks and reds spoil the child's natural sense of colour, 
their hypodermic injections of sex and murder make the child 
impatient with better though quieter stories - the shame lies 
largely with the parents who don't know and don't care what 
their children are reading. It is with the unimaginative teachers 
who force stupid, dull twaddle down eager young throats, and, 
of course, it lies with the completely immoral publishers of the 
"comics"- guilty of a cultural slaughter of the innocents. But 

the antidote to the 'comic' magazine poison can be found in 
any library or good book store. The parent who does not 
acquire that antidote for his child is guilty of criminal 

North's condemnation of the comic books was not 
directly responsible for any concrete action to control 
their content. However, New York psychiatrist Fredric 
Wertham expanded North's criticisms, enriched them 
with clinical evidence, and began a vigorous personal 
campaign against the comic books in 1946. Within a 
year, the American public was demanding regulation. 

The culmination of Wertham's seven-year investi- 
gation was the publication of Seduction of the Innocent 
(1953). Wertham clearly concludes throughout the 

It is our clinical judgment, in all kinds of behavior disorders 
and personality difficulties of children that comic books do 
play a part . . . [they are] a contributing factor not to be 
neglected .... The study of one factor does not obliterate the 
importance of other factors. . . . Our research has proven there 
is a significant correlation between crime comics reading and 
the more serious forms of juvenile deliquency. . . . Crime 
comics are an agent with harmful potentialities. They bring 
about a mass conditioning of children, with different eff"ects in 
the individual case. A child is not a simple unit which exists 
outside of its living social ties. Comic books themselves may be 
the virus, or the cause of a lack of resistance to the social virus 
of a harmful environment." 

Yet his critics condemn him primarily for being too 
simplistic in attributing the cause of juvenile dehn- 
quency to the crime and horror comic books. 
Wertham's own words refute these allegations. As a 
psychiatrist, he acknowledged the complexity of the 
situation and did not believe that portrayed violence 
would be simply translated into actual violent acts. 
Wertham regarded the comic books as a significant 
aspect of the child's environment^^ which may exert an 
influence along any of the following lines: 

1) The comic-book format is an invitation to illiteracy. 

2) Crime comic books create an atmosphere of cruelty and 

3) They create a readiness for temptation. 

4) They stimulate unwholesome fantasies. 

5) They suggest criminal or sexually abnormal ideas. 

6) They furnish the rationalization for them, which may be 
ethically even more harmful than the impulse. 

7) They suggest the forms a delinquent impulse may take and 
supply details of technique. 

8) They may tip the scales toward maladjustment or delin- 
quency. " 

The greater portion of Seduction of the Innocent is 
description of actual cases in which the comic books 
have been identified as the seducer. Bombarding 
parents with this "evidence" was a highly eflfective 
means of forcing all those concerned with children's 
welfare to take a stand on the issue and press for legal 
action. Wertham proposed legal control of children's 
comic books as the only eflfective remedy to the evils he 
discovered. He noted, however, a traditional barrier: 


People are always ready to censor obvious crudity in sex. But 
they have not yet learned the role of temptation, propaganda, 
seduction and indoctrination in the field of crime and 
violence. '■• 

The Censorship Issue 

Wertham was not alone in suggesting censorship as an 
appropriate solution. Margaret Mead, in 1955, 
suggested censorship as a means of protecting the 

Mass communications - movies, television, paper books - 
bring us up against the fact that in such media it is impossible 
to discriminate between children and adults. We can keep 
children under sixteen out of theatres or movie houses, keep 
their allowance so low that they cannot afford to buy expensive 
books, and train librarians to hide books that are regarded as 
unfit for children. But where the child, with a turn of the dial or 
an easily earned quarter, can listen or look or read with no 
adult present to censor, this becomes impossible.^^ 

And Walter Lippmann, in 1954 concurred: 

Censorship is no doubt a clumsy and usually a stupid and self- 
defeating remedy for such evils. But a continual exposure of a 
generation to the commercial exploitation of the enjoyment of 
violence and cruelty is one way to corrode the foundations of a 
civilized society. For my part, believing as I do in freedom of 
speech and thought, I see no objections in principle to 
censorship of the mass entertainment of the young. Until some 
more refined way is worked out for controlling this evil thing, 
the risks to our liberties are, I believe, decidedly less than the 
risks of unmanageable violence.'* 

More extreme in his intei^Dretation, social ciitic 
Gershon Legman condemns "our culture [where] the 
perversion of children is an industry"^^ with the obser- 
vation that, "where institutionalized violence appears in 
history it is the last resort of bankrupt civilizations sick 
and reeling to death."^* 

On the opposite side of the censorship issue, there 
were fears that controls would expand into broader 
censorship once instituted. Anti-censorship opinion 
based on definition of "freedom of expression" was 
articulated by Robert J. Blakely: 

We seem to be tending, almost by tacit agreement, to regard 
freedom of expression as a^ private right to be restricted like 
other private rights when they are abused instead of & public 
right that cannot be restricted without damage to the general 
welfare. True, dark irrational forces have been discovered, 
both in the individual and in the society, but how were they 
discovered? By rational analysis. And what is the alternative? 
Certainly not irrationality. True, the margins of permissible 
error in the modern world are narrower than used to be. But 
how do we avoid or minimize error? Certainly not by being 
ignorant of alternatives or of relevant facts. Freedom of 
expression from the social point of view is the right of citizens 
to hear all arguments and to look at all proofs and the respon- 
sibility to let others do the same.'' 

The Psychiatric Defence 

Along with the banter concerning the value and appro- 
priateness of censorship, numerous psychiatrists took 
issue with Wertham's interpretation of the value of 

comic books in children's lives. Although "every child 
who was six years old in 1938 had by now f I948J 
absorbed an absolute minimum of 18,000 pictorial 
beatings, shootings, strangiings. blood puddles and 
torturings to death from comic books alone.""*'' many 
psychiatrists continued to defend them as merely 
healthy outlets for pent-up emotions. "So long as our 
children's books will not give them the sense of 
'aliveness of modernity,' of speedy action, they will turn 
increasingly to the comics.'"" 

Among psychiatrists who defend the comics on the 
basis of elaborate psychological theories, the most vocal 
are Josette Frank, Sidonie M. Gruenberg, Lauretta 
Bender, and Reginald S. Laurie. All agree that "the 
motivation toward unsocial acts lies much deeper than 
any casual contact with ideas on a printed page."'*^ 
Contrary to Wertham, comic books serve as valuable 
aids to the child's psychological development and social 
adjustment, though they may be harmful for children 
who are already maladjusted. 

Children apparently progress through three stages in 
comics reading, from funny-animal type to adventure, 
crime, and mystery, and finally to educational comics. 
In each of the three stages, the comics perform different 
functions contributing to the child's development. In 
the earliest stage, comics provide a projection of the 
child's self in characters that are plausible in behaviour 
and set in every day domestic situations. In the second 
stage, the comics allow for ego inflation through 
identification with the superhero. Progressing through 
the second stage, the child realizes the incredibility of 
past heroes but, still needing a hero for identification, 
chooses more plausible ones. Finally, by the third stage 
(approximately age 13), the child demands psycho- 
logical reality, and comics serve an encyclopedic 
function for direction in the real world.''^ 

Psychiatric opinion contends that. 

So far corrective tendencies in comic writing from censors, self- 
appointed or otherwise, have tended to sterilize the comic as a 
means of satisfying the psychological needs of children. To 
remove fantasy, or to reduce comics to the true and real, tends 
to make them more threatening and productive of anxiety, 
because they offer no solution to the problems of aggression."" 

The mass media not only facilitate personality growth, 
but enrich the child's experiences. Action, suspense, 
hostility, and adventure provide an opportunity for the 
child to come to grips with his anti-social impulses by 
satisfying vicariously what might otherwise develop into 
aggressive acts."*^ The corollary to this statement is that 
"when enough thrills and excitement are actually 
experienced, the vast majority of children have no 
need" for these vicarious experiences.-**' The solution, 
then, is not the over-solicitous parent, shielding children 
from all potentially harmful influences. A positive 
approach rather than a negative one is suggested. 
Parents are charged with the responsibility of devel- 
oping the child's equipment for more critical appraisals 


of comics and other media of entertainment through 
expanding their fields of experience.'*^ 

These psychiatrists do not ignore the possibiUty that 
representations of horror and violence may adversely 
affect youthful minds. However, they propose that: 

No matter how weird or violent they may be, programs do not 
create disturbances. But given a child who evidences disturb- 
ance, one must question the effect of the stimulus on this 
particular child. Pathology enters the picture when the 
emotional disturbance persists over a long period and is 
palpably heightened by this type of experience.''*' 

Even among disturbed children, the banning of violent 
comic books and other entertainment is not advised."*^ 
Again, the onus is on parents to know their children to 
ensure an appropriate balance of activities. A good 
balance of activities would include not only other types 
of reading but helping children develop constructive 
activities, organizing sports activities and community 
centres, and widely publicizing the achievements of 
youth, offering rewards to encourage children's 
aspirations.-" It is stressed, that in the psychological 
sense, agression is not synonymous with hostility and 
fighting is not the only satisfying outlet. In this respect, 
education is criticized for its lack of resourcefulness and 
its ignorance of means to deal with frustration. 

One very different but relevant point of view is 
worthy of examination. The comic books are considered 
a very special educational tool by Lovell Thompson in 
his 1942 study. By reading comic books, "you can have 
the twentieth century all at once instead of day by 
day."^' The comics, Thompson suggests, are preparing 
today's children for becoming tomorrow's leaders. If 
parents, therefore, cannot sanction children's reading 
material, they should close their eyes to it. This futurist 
tendency was a matter of concern to the United States 
government during World War II. Comic books were 
screened before exportation as potential purveyors of 
information of American scientific experimentation. All 
references to atomic bombs in Superman comics were 
deleted and even the publishers could not understand 
why until Hiroshima. ^^ 

Amid all the arguments on behalf of children, too 
often the child's opinion is ignored. As an example, one 
articulate young man was very much aware of the 
hypocrisy of censorship. 

Next we questioned a regular subscriber. He told us that 
people who called themselves grown-up made him tired. He 
and his schoolmates only read their comics for seven years. 
Grown-ups had forty-nine years of being grown-up - seven 
times longer than children - to read what they liked. 

The child glanced round the playground where we were 
standing, selected a stone, threw it at a passing cat, missed it, 
then said that he understood there was a time when children 
read Grimm and Andersen and Beatrix Potter and liked and 
believed in stories they told. Grown-ups, he said, with their 
newspapers, picture-papers, radios, and wars every twenty 
years, had knocked the bottom out of romance. 'Then you turn 
round and growl at us and our comics. And you grown-ups, 
you read frightful murder books, too, about detectives and 

crooks, and magazines like True Romance and True Detective 
and Wild West, and most of the films you see are just plain 
awful.' He then asked if we had seen a recent advertisement for 
a horror film: "If you like your mental beef-steak underdone, 
here it is . . . Gory, Ripe, and Red! In "They Met in the Dark," 
weird horrors and the unspeakable terrors! A chilling thrill in 
every scene." 'Arr!' said the child, 'you make me tired.' He 
reached for another stone.'' 

It is obvious that the reports of psychiatric opinion 
display wide differences in interpretations of the 
potential harm or value of comic books. -^'' Nevertheless, 
amid the confusion, the public was aroused on the side 
of censorship. 

American Control of Comic Book Content 

One of the first American groups to speak out against 
crime and horror comics was the National Office for 
Decent Literature. The nodl was established by the 
Catholic Bishops of the United States in 1938 to "set in 
motion the moral forces of the entire country . . . against 
the lascivious type of literature which threatens moral, 
social and national life."-^^ The organization attempted 
to coordinate activities and supply information to all 
interested groups, regardless of religion. At first, the 
NODL was concerned primarily with magazines and 
paperback books but since 1947 it has also been evalu- 
ating comic books. The nodl organized volunteer 
reviewing committees of approximately 150 members to 
evaluate comics as "acceptable," "borderline" or 
"objectionable." Four out of five reviewers had to judge 
a publication objectionable before any action was 
taken, nodl Parish Decency Crusades were organized 
to visit newsstands, distribute its "objectionable" lists 
and secure the removal of those publications listed. 
Citizens' Committees were also encouraged by the nodl 
to organize public officials, educators, and all those 
concerned with youth to sponsor legislation. The nodl 
Code reads as follows: 

The National Office for Decent Literature has been established 
to safeguard the moral and spiritual ideals of youth through a 
program designed: 

1) to remove objectionable comic books, magazines and pocket- 
size books from places of distribution accessible to youth; 

2) to encourage the publishing and distribution of good litera- 

3) to promote plans to develop worthwhile reading habits 
during the formative years. 

The NODL fulfills its function, in part, by offering to respon- 
sible individuals and organizations an evaluation of current 
comic books, magazines and pocket-size books based on 
clearly defined, objective standards. The Code followed 
explicitly defines objectionable reading for youth. 
Publications listed as objectionable are those which: 

1) Glorify cnme or the criminal. 

2) Describe in detail ways to commit criminal acts. 

3) Hold lawful authority in disrespect. 

4) Exploit horror, cruelty or violence. 

5) Portray sex facts offensively. 

6) Feature indecent, lewd or suggestive photographs or illustra- 


7) Carry advertising which is offensive in content or advertise 
products which may lead to physical or moral harm. 

8) Use blasphemous, profane or obscene speech indiscrimi- 
nately and repeatedly. 

9) Hold up to ridicule any national, religious or racial group.^* 

The General Federation of Women's Clubs, repre- 
senting a national membership of four milHon, also 
appointed volunteers to visit newsstands, list the titles 
that were available, and the names of the purchasers. In 
this way, the gfwc could track down readers and 
purchasers of objectionable comic books to exert a 
personal, and therefore more powerful, influence." 

The Cincinnati Committee on the Evaluation of the 
Comic Books was founded on May 25, 1948, as a result 
of the inspiration of Dr. Jesse L. Murrel. Its members 
included a broad cross-section of the community, from 
religious groups, educators, juvenile court judges, hbrar- 
ians, and representatives of Parent-Teacher Associa- 

Originally, the Cincinnati policy was to improve 
comic content by means of cooperation with publishers 
and distributors. When these activities failed to produce 
effects, the Committee developed a code and criteria to 
judge the comics and rate them as "no objection," 
"some objection" and "objectionable." Each comic 
book was evaluated on this scale in terms of its cultural, 
moral and emotional impacts. The resulting evaluations 
were widely distributed across the United States and 
Canada and were published annually in Parents' 
Magazine.-^ In 1957, the Committee ceased compiling 
complete evaluations because, in its terms, it "had put 
itself out of business."'^ 

The Child Study Association followed a similar 
program of action. In 1943, and again in 1949, the 
Children's Book Committee of the Association 
published a survey of the comic-book industry. No titles 
were named since they were very elusive. Rather, trends 
in comic-book content and "guide-posts" for parental 
selection of good comic books were proposed in detail. 
The Association preferred a process of education and 
selection to that of censorship and imposed regulation.^" 

On the local level, spontaneous reactions against 
comic books were numerous. More than fifty cities had 
sought action against the sale of comic magazines by 
1948. Some had passed local ordinances regulating their 
sale; others had set up censorship committees. Thirty- 
two bills or resolutions to curb comic books were intro- 
duced in state legislatures in 1949, although none 
passed. Only one, in New York, passed both houses, 
and it was vetoed by the governor. However, in May 
1955. New York State did make it illegal to sell 
"obscene and objectionable comics" to minors and use 
such words as "crime, sex, horror, terror" in titles of 
comic books. ^' Municipal action such as the following 
was widespread: 

1) Working together, Indianapolis magazine distributors, city 
officials, and civic groups banned 35 comic books. 

2) Detroit police had forbidden the sale of 36 comic books at 
local newsstands in advance of censure that was threatened. 

3) Hillsdale, Michigan, had banned the same books prohibited 
in Detroit. This action was taken under a Michigan statute 
outlawing "obscene, indecent, and immoral literature." 

4) Civic leaders in Centralia, Washington, had appealed to the 
comic book publishers to tone down their matenal.*' 

5) Parochial students of St. Cyril's Parish. Chicago, and St. 
Patrick's School, Binghamton, put the torch to heaps of 
comic books and priests urged a boycott on stores and 
newsstands selling comic books." 

At least fifty cities had "banned, burned or blasted" 
many of the "objectionable" comic books. ^^ The 
industry finally felt the pressure, and, in July of that 
year, fourteen major publishers formed the Association 
of Comics Magazine Publishers. To protect themselves 
from criticism and restrictive legislation, the publishers 
adopted a code of ethics and urged members to abstain 
from publishing "sexy, wanton comics"; glorified or 
sympathetic treatments of crime; "details and methods 
of a crime committed by a youth"; vulgar and obscene 
language; and scenes of sadistic torture. However, the 
members of the association represented only 30 per cent 
of the comic book industry. Some of the largest 
publishers refused to join the association (Dell, 
Fawcett; William Gaines; and National Comics Publi- 
cations) because they believed their comic books above 
reproach. ^'^ Dell's statement applauded the Comics 
Association in their elimination of horror and terror 
comics but took exception to the rest of its platform 
which would only regulate rather than eliminate all 
questionable comics. *'- 

Criticism of the comics continued despite the attempt 
at self regulation. Finally the American federal 
government took a look at the comics during the 
proceedings of the "Special Committee to Investigate 
Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce" under the 
leadership of Senator Estes Kefauver (1950). The inves- 
tigation of the influence of comic books on juvenile 
delinquency received only incidental attention, and no 
recommendations evolved from the contradictor) 
reports presented.^'' Again in 1952. a congressional 
committee, the "Select Committee on Current Porno- 
graphic Materials." chaired by E.C. Gathings. dealt 
with comic books as only a secondary concern. The 
Committee was primarily concerned with obscenity and 
pornography in magazines and pocket books. The 
Gathings Committee recommended that all publishers 
should remove, on their own initiative, "objectionable" 
literature to avoid federal legislation.^" 

The most recent and extensive government study of 
the comic books was conducted by the Senate 
Committee of the Judiciary to Investigate Juvenile 
Delinquency, known as the Kefauver Senate 
Committee. The Interim Report (March. 1954) of the 
Committee deals extensively with the contributions of 
crime and horror comics to juvenile delinquency. After 
intensive questioning of comic-book publishers. 


psychologists, and other interested parties. Senator 
Kefauver stated his belief that 

. . . this Nation cannot afford the calculated risk involved in the 
continued mass dissemination of crime and horror comic 
books to children . . . The Committee flatly rejects all sugges- 
tions of governmental censorship as being totally out of 
keeping with our basic American concept of a free press 
operating in a free land for a free people . . . Standards for such 
products, whether in the form of a code or by the policies of 
individual producers, should not be aimed to eliminate only 
that which can be proved beyond doubt to demoralize youth. 
Rather the aim should be to eliminate all materials that poten- 
tially exert detrimental efl'ects.''* 

Thus, the United States government placed the respon- 
sibility for cleaning up the comics in the hands of the 
comic-book industry. At the same time, however, 
vigilante citizens' groups were praised for their anti- 
comic-book campaigns and urged to continue pointing 
out potentially harmful material. 

With the advice of the Kefauver Committee, the 
industry formed a new self-regulatory group, the Comic 
Magazines Association of America, with Charles F. 
Murphy as the director. Murphy banned "horror" and 
"crime" comic books and announced a new code of 
performance similar to the earlier one. Again, Dell 
refused to join but agreed to cooperate with the 

Murphy was confident of raising the industry's 
standards when he stated, "ours is a code with teeth in 
it. In fact it is one of the strongest codes ever adopted 
by a communications medium."^^ All comic books 
abiding by the code received the Association's seal of 
approval. Vigilante committees were urged to pressure 
newsdealers to suppress the off^ensive comic books 
without seals. 

Although the code was created primarily for industry 
self-defence, it proved suicidal for some. The code, 
though vague, was sufficiently narrow to eliminate the 
worst offenders. Within six months, out of 5,000 stories 
screened, 200 were rejected and 1,300 were revised 
before publication. Advertising was cleaned up and all 
advertisements for guns and knives were banned. 

The Association's seal of approval had an incredible 
cathartic effect on a public incensed over comic book 
violence; it allowed almost everyone to forget about the 
comics. Yet, according to Wertham, the code really did 
nothing to remove crime from comic books. All it did 
was disguise violent actions "in a hypocritical aura of 
good taste providing that certain things never be 
depicted realistically. The overall effect was that murder 
looked more like a game under this new seal of 
approval. "^"^ 

Although the code made legislation unnecessary, it is 
doubtful that any pending legislation would have been 
passed since excesses similar to those which appeared in 
the comics could be found in any other medium, and 
could hardly have been prohibited by constitutional 
legislation.^' But the primary barrier against legislative 
action was the legal precedent set by the United States 

Supreme Court in 1948. "Today Winters v. New York 
stands as the case of main reliance for those who defend 
as a constitutional right the existence of crime and 
violence in the various printed media. "^^ 

Under New York penal law which prohibited publi- 
cations "principally made up of . . . pictures or stories of 
deeds of bloodshed, lust or crime," 2,000 copies of 
Bargains in Bodies, being sold by Winters, a book 
dealer, were seized. The publication was predominantly 
crime and bloodshed, illustrated with gruesome pictures 
of victims. The book dealer was originally convicted, 
the conviction was upheld in higher courts, and then 
reversed by the United States Supreme Court. The final 
decision asserted that although such words as 
"obscene," "lewd," "lascivious," "filthy," "indecent" or 
"disgusting" were "well understood through long use in 
the criminal law," "massing stories to incite crime" and 
"stories of deeds of bloodshed and violence" were too 
"vague" and "unclear." Winters was acquitted and the 
New York law was abolished." 

Control of Comic Books in Canada 

In Canada, though opinion on both sides of the comics 
issue mirrored that south of the border,^"* the end result 
was legal censorship. Not until the late Forties were 
Canadians mobilized against crime and horror 
magazines, again primarily as a result of Fredric 
Wertham's inspirational campaign. 

The comics campaign began in Canada in 1947 when 
circulation was estimated at 60,000,000 comics sold 
annually with nearly four out of every five Canadian 
children reading them.^^ Although the Victoria, B.C., 
Parent-Teacher Association and the Imperial Order 
Daughters of the Empire both claim to have purged 
Canada of this menace, Edward Davie Fulton, Tory 
member of parliament from Kamloops, B.C., was 
primarily responsible for the Canadian legislation. 

On October 18, 1948, the Kamloops Parent-Teachers 
Association sent Fulton a representative bundle of 
comic books which they believed to be "poisoning" the 
minds of their children. Fulton, shocked by their 
content, made a thorough investigation of the content 
of the comics, the trade volume, the distribution 
channels, and the records of the alleged eff"ects on 
children. Fulton's findings confirmed his belief that 
action should be taken. Fulton drafted and introduced a 
bill in 1948 to amend the Criminal Code to ban crime- 
comic books and prosecute publishers and distributors. 

The debates on the Fulton Bill were extensive. 
Speakers included judges and school board members 
and numerous other informed opinions were voiced. ^^ 
The Minister of Justice, the Honourable Stuart S. 
Garson, summed up the debates as follows: 

When publishers and disseminators of various kinds of crime 
comics and obscene literature are heartened and emboldened 
by this concern of ours for the preservation of literary and 
artistic freedom, and become steadily more impudent in their 
degradation of that freedom so that they transform freedom 


into license, the time conies, and I think we all agree that it has 
come when we must take further action to curtail ofTences." 

The above statement was probably inspired by Fulton's 
speech in which he stated: 

Even if there were only one case of crime, the commission of 
which was influenced by crime comics, even if the enactment 
of the bill only prevented one murder, one crime of violence 
being committed by a juvenile, I would say that the act, if 
passed, would have served its purpose.^" 

The revised bill to outlaw crime comics by an 
amendment to the Criminal Code was passed unani- 
mously by the House of Commons. ^^ 

The bill was then referred to a standing committee of 
the Senate which heard testimony from comic book 
publishers. The publishers almost convinced the 
Senators that comic books did not have an adverse 
moral effect on children. However, when they displayed 
their wares, their arguments lost all credibility.^^ The 
Senate passed the Fulton Bill by the overwhelming 
majority of 91 to 5. 

An article in a 1949 issue of Saturday Night catches 
the spirit with which newsdealers greeted the new law. 

The prospect of two years in jail threw many of the 10,000 
retail news dealers into panic. Every one of them was 
compelled to act as censor of the comic books (up to 175 titles) 
on his shelves. Unable or reluctant to make the fine distinction 
between "fun" comics and "crime" comics, the dealers began 
sweeping all of them off their displays and cancelled orders for 
new ones. The word that gave most trouble was 'substantially': 
would comics like "Dick Tracy" come under the ban?*' 

After the initial panic subsided, a committee of 
publishers, distributors, and printers met to decide 
which of their comics would be affected by the new law. 
They drew up a hst of twenty-five titles which were 
immediately discontinued. This joint decision offered 
dealers some security that those titles remaining were 
acceptable. ^^ TTiough not agreeing that crime and 
horror comics were injurious to the youthful mind, they 
decided to appoint a group of "qualified" persons to 
scrutinize all comic books periodically.^^ 

The new comics law remained almost dormant and 
citizens' groups continued to press for regulation. The 
first test case was dismissed when Magistrate G.H. Rose 
of the Alberta Police Court ruled that Underworld 
Detective did not fall under the definition of the Act. 
The defence counsel, S.J. Helman, suggested that the 
government should set a standard of what was salable 
under the new amendment and, further, that the 
Customs Act should be amended to conform with the 
new legislation to give customs officials the power to 
refuse crime-comic books as they did obscene 
publications.^'' Numerous other cases were tried but 
were dismissed because of the ambiguity of the Act.*^ 
Fulton noted in a House of Commons debate in 1954: 

I suppose that no legislation of itself will do the job. There has 
to be in the public mind an insistence upon enforcement as 
well as an awareness of the problem.**" 

A year later, three Montreal news dealers were found 

guilty under the comics legislation and fined SI,0<'X)and 
costs each. Before handing down his decision. Judge 
Cloutier said: 

Youth read this macabre material with avidity . . . much money 
is amassed by this exploitation of public morbidity and severe 
sentences up to two years in penitentiary for individuals are 
provided by law. . . . The stories depicted in the crime 
magazines which were submitted in this case can be classified 
as "crime tragedies" rather than "crime comics." Certainly 
poi.soning the hearts and souls of our youth must be stopped 
and a severe warning must be given to those who distribute 
such stories . . .*" 

The precedent-setting success of the Montreal cases 
were largely the result of vigilante activities of the 
Bureau for Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency and the 
Montreal Council of Women. Assistant Inspector Ovilla 
Pelletier made a public announcement urging the public 
to buy any "objectionable" comic books they found and 
mail them with the dealer's name and address to the 
Bureau so that prompt action could be taken. 

After the passage of the Canadian legislation, 
numerous American groups, most notably the United 
States Council of Women, corresponded with their 
Canadian counterparts asking for information on the 
origin and operation of the Canadian law. However. 
Canadian legislation seemed to work no better than did 
the American self-regulation. Fulton's conclusion that 
the success of regulating provisions is dependent upon a 
"public mind," aware of the problems and insistent 
upon enforcement, was proven in both Canadian and 
American outcomes. 

British Control of Comic Books 

By the early Fifties, the anti-crime-and-hcrror-com- 
ic-book crusade was widespread in Britain. Parent- 
teacher organizations were the first to recognize the 
danger and appeal to parliament for legislation. The 
government maintained that press freedom could not be 
restricted and that the comics issue was one with which 
parents and teachers must deal outside the realm of law. 
Yet the volume of public protests grew and with them 
appeals to the government to take action. And still the 
British government refused to institute any more direct 
censorship against British publishers of American 
comics to complement its ban on the importation of 
"objectionable" American comics.*** Therefore, it was 
left to the "public mind" to censor crime and horror 
comics. This time, in the absence of industry self-regu- 
lation or government regulation, the concerned British 
public successfully combated the "Yankee" comics. 

The British Comics Campaign Council was organized 
by parents and educators to examine the comics and 
report on their findings. The report was published and 
distributed widely to put pressure on publishers. Most 
of the comic books simply changed their titles to avoid 

Also, the Authors' World Peace Appeal convened a 


panel which endeavoured to put out an evaluation list 
along the lines of the American Cincinnati Association 
to help parents in selecting appropriate comics for their 

A society called the Company of New Elizabethans 
was founded by children's author Miss Noel Streatfield, 
to combat the "vicious, degrading contents of modern 
so-called comics" and raise parents' awareness of their 

The London Times expressed the prevailing British 
opinion in an article by Neville Sandelson: 

This [better education] is being jeopardized by those comics 
which are of a particularly vicious kind with the nastiest sort of 
appeal to the changing instincts of adolescents . . . the onus is 
on officialdom to show at least that these comics are not a 
contributing factor [tojuvenile crime]. Since these publications 
are universally recognized as pernicious what objection can 
there be to their prohibition? ... It is, I know, a matter of grave 
concern to many headmasters in areas where these comics are 
being distributed and local education authorities are of course 
helpless in the matter. In an age of uncertain values and 
deficient faith the least that society can do is to extirpate 
obvious evils.'- 

The Chairman of the Royal Society for the Prevention 
of Cruelty to Animals put some of the blame for an 
increase of cruelty by children on the "Yankee 

We do not want to prosecute children, but certainly cases 
during the last year were so bad we had no alternative but to 
bring them before the juvenile courts." 

The public maintained that it was impossible for 
parents to control the reading matter of adolescents 
effectively. A petition signed by thousands, asking 
Parliament to ban production, importation, and distri- 
bution of American-style comic books, was the most 
influential in the subsequent legislation. Finally, in 
1955, the Children's and Young Persons' Act was 
rushed through parliament after archbishops and 
government ofl[icials were persuaded to examine some 
of the offending comic books. Yet it was the "obscene," 
and references to sex that were their prime concerns 
rather than violence and horror.'*'* 

Beginning in 1950, several publishers attempted to 
combat the influence of American comic books with the 
publication of comics more suitable for children, which 
upheld the British tradition of combining good-quality 
juvenile literature with excitement and adventure. 
Hultan Press published Eagle, which reached a million 
circulation very quickly. Other publications followed 
such as Amalgamated Press's School Friend (\950), and 
Thompson and Company's Lion (1951).^^ With the 
public censure of crime and horror comics and the 
availability of these appealing but "wholesome" comics, 
the popularity of the American imports began to wane. 

Comic Books and Television 

Fredric Wertham believed that the amount of violence 
ofll'ered children by television was derived partly from 

crime comics. He found obvious connections in quali- 
tative aspects of violence as well; in "the connection of 
violence with other things - family life, sex, daily living, 
absence of tragic feeling, etc. - and the details 
themselves.'"'^ Wertham continues: 

For a while before 1945 it seemed that the crime-comic book 
industry had a monopoly on the brutalization of children. Now 
it has some competition from television and the other media so 
children may get the idea that violence is natural from any or 
all of the media ... TV is on its way to become the greatest 
medium of our time . . . the hopes it raises are high, even 
though its most undoubted achievement to date is that it has 
brought homicide into the home.'^ 

Wertham advanced the same criticisms against 
television violence as he did against comic books and 
proposed a code for television. 

Saturday children's television is the most obvious link 
between the comics and television. A study conducted 
by Earle F. Barcus found that one-third of the story 
time dealt predominantly with crime and its solution. 
More than half the stories included active chase scenes 
and 20 per cent included obviously frightening 
suspenseful situations. More than eight out often story 
segments contained at least one recognizable act of 
violence and in thirty per cent violence "saturated" the 
stories. Barcus concludes that the violence was unnec- 
essary in most incidents, and that the reason for violent 
programs is to attract and hold the child for "the real 
message of commercial television - the advertising 
message. "^^ 


Chapter Eight 

Social Control of The Motion Picture 

The New Medium 

In the first half of the twentieth century the motion 
picture was the most important entertainment medium 
in Western society, perhaps even throughout the entire 
world. Certainly, like no other form of entertainment 
before them, the movies captured the hearts and imagi- 
nation of an enormous world-wide audience, and 
exerted a social and cultural influence that transcended 
their purely recreational intentions.' The problem of 
"movie influence" was recognized early in the medium's 
development, and resulted in a series of prolonged 
attacks unprecedented in the history of mass entertain- 

Exactly why did the motion picture cause so much 
controversy? Why did the moving image on the screen 
arouse previously lethargic citizens to raise their voices 
in alarm about the influence the movies were having on 
society in general, and children in particular? WTiile 
public outcry on the issue of outside influences on 
public morality was by no means new, no previous form 
of entertainment or communication had been subjected 
to such severe and prolonged criticism. In fact, the 
movies were something far more than an obnoxious 
entertainment diversion, and for many they represented 
in a graphic, tangible form all the dangers and terrors 
that an increasingly industrialized and urbanized 
society suggested. 

The real basis of the fear of the "power" of the 
movies lay in the inability of society to understand, and 
therefore to deal with the new form of social interaction 
which developed during the nineteenth century as the 
result of the introduction of what we now call the "mass 
media." We have already seen the difficulties encoun- 
tered with the rise of mass literature, and the immense 
success of the popular press. The movies continued this 
trend, but this time a new, widened dimension of 
popularity had been added; in particular, the medium's 
immense appeal to children. 

The introduction of the mass media, first the popular 
daily newspaper, then the motion picture, followed by 
radio and finally television, has, in essence, created 
what Denis McQuail, the sociologist calls "a collectivity 
unique to modern society." It is basically an aggregate 

of individuals "united by a common focus of interest, 
engaging in an identical form of behaviour, and open to 
activation towards common ends; yet the individuals 
involved are unknown to each other, have only a 
restricted amount of interaction, do not orient their 
actions to each other and are only loosely organized or 
lacking in organization."' 

These characteristics and their implications created 
social conditions that were so totally new that their 
existence brought about fundamental changes in the 
structure and interaction within Western society. The 
new communications media gave rise to totally new 
complexes of activity concerned with the manipulation 
of symbols and personalities, and in the process the 
mass media inevitably acquired their own status and 
authority, and were placed in the position of being able 
to confer prestige and legitimacy on those issues or 
personalities to which they turned their attention.^ 

A major aspect of the introduction of the mass media, 
and one that was particularly important to the future of 
the motion-picture industry, was their ability to bypass 
the existing channels of social communication and 
authority structures in the spheres of politics, religion, 
education, kinship, and economics, and to establish 
direct contact with the individual. Particularly in the 
areas of education and religion, parents and teachers 
became concerned because they felt powerless to 
prevent the influence of these new communications 
forms, which seemed so readily accessible to the young. 
Thus many of the mass media's inroads into existing 
institutions were initially resisted, but eventually there 
was a gradual move toward greater accommodation, 
and finally each of the afi'ected institutions came to use 
these media for its own purposes. 

The motion picture exemplifies this pattern of 
"accommodation by adoption," for once it was estab- 
lished as a commercial success, and more than just a 
passing fad. political, educational, and religious institu- 
tions quickly adopted it while off^ering a great deal of 
praise for its potential in their particular spheres of 
interest. The paradox, therefore, was that the motion 
picture was accepted, utilized, and praised on the insti- 
tutional level, while at the same time the commercial- 


entertainment film was viewed with a great deal of 

The Need for Social Control Mechanisms 

When potential nickelodeon entrepreneurs all across 
the United States and Canada scrambled to obtain local 
rights to Mr. Edison's latest invention, they surely did 
not suspect the emotional issues they were precipitating. 
However, there were early hints that the moving picture 
would be the source of some trouble when, in 1896. just 
two weeks after Edison's Kinetoscope was introduced 
onto the Atlantic City Boardwalk, authorities objected 
to the showing of Dolorita in the Passion Dance.'* In the 
next few years the motion picture, in its various exhibi- 
tionary forms, was subjected to constant complaint and 
harassment, culmmating in the dramatic but futile 
attempt to close all the movie theatres in New York 
City in 1908. 

What became immediately obvious was that local 
communities were ill-equipped to cope with the "movie 
problem." While local municipal ordinances were in 
existence to cover various aspects of theatrical enter- 
tainment, these proved to be grossly inadequate for 
control of the volatile and increasingly ubiquitous new 
medium. From their emergence as a major enter- 
tainment activity in 1896, it would be several years 
before specific regulations were enacted to deal with 
"picture parlours" or "nicklelodeons." In Britain, the 
London County Council passed its "Regulations in 
Premises Licensed by the London County Council: 
Cinematograph Lanterns" in 1898, but these were 
concerned solely with safety precautions and covered 
such matters as the construction and illumination of 
lanterns and projectors. It was obvious that these 
regulations were a direct outcome of the disastrous fire 
the previous summer at the Paris Bazar de la Charite, 
which had been caused by careless management of a 
movie projector.^ However, such specific regulations in 
this early period were unique; New York would not 
pass its movie-house ordinances until 1913; in Canada 
the first provincial statutes dealing with movies had 
been passed in 191 1. Certainly, in the period before 
1907, there were few regulations aimed specifically at 
controlling the content of films. 

The lack of "censorship ordinances" did not prevent 
an enormous wave of criticism and indignation which 
accompanied the development of the motion picture as 
the major entertainment form in the first decade of the 
twentieth century. Essentially the criticism can be 
classified into four broad categories: ( 1 ) The child and 
the influence of the motion picture; (2) the problem of 
"movie morals and manners"; (3) the health problem 
caused by filthy conditions in nickelodeons; and (4) 
educational and religious responses. Here, we are essen- 
tially concerned with the first two problems, although 
all four issues were combined in many complaints. 

Children and the Movies 

Much of the attention paid to the motion picture in this 
early period was due to its extreme attractiveness and 
accessibility to children, and the nature of the 
relationship between the child and the medium became 
the dominating factor in all discussions of motion- 
picture influence.^ It is within this context that we must 
search for the origins of the negative attitudes toward 
the medium. It is not diflficult to understand why the 
movies were labelled as a "disruptive influence," for 
they were usually beyond the immediate control of the 
local community, they dispensed "messages" sometimes 
at odds with accepted social norms, and supposedly 
competed with the school for the child's attention. The 
movies, as was previously indicated, also circumvented 
the usual socializing agencies, such as the family, the 
school, and the church, and appealed "directly" to the 
child. Little wonder then that the movies received close 
attention from "the guardians of the culture," and that 
the question of "movie morals" would be a constant 

In particular the movies were singled out for their 
contribution to what appeared to be an increase in 
juvenile crime. As early as 1905, in England, "three 
boys caught breaking into a shop said that they had 
learned how to do it from a cinema show."^ In 1909, 
Jane Addams, the famous director of Hull House 
settlement house in Chicago, in her book The Spirit of 
Youth and City Streets., noted of the movies that they 
were full of "absurdities which certainly will become the 
foundation for their [children] working moral codes and 
the data from which they will judge the proprieties of 
life." She specifically cited two film plots which aroused 
her indignation: one involving a robbery and murder, 
with a ten-year-old boy avenging his father's death; the 
other involving a robbery and murder of a Chinese 
laundryman by two young boys in order to feed their 
starving mother and younger sister. This last murder, 
Miss Addams claimed, ended with "a prayer of thank- 
fulness for this timely and heaven-sent assistance."* 

With children making up a very high proportion of 
the daily audience at picture shows it was only natural 
that the medium would be accused of encouraging 
criminal behaviour. While many other "movie habits" 
were also condemned, the presentation of detailed 
criminal behaviour on the screen was the most constant 
source of complaint. In 1912. Robert Grau, the theatre 
and movie historian, asked the "celebrated detective," 
Mr. William J. Burns, what he thought about the issue 
of "movies and crime." Burns did not hesitate in 

The mental attitude of the average spectator at a photoplay 
house is receptive in seeking what might be called a deviation 
from mental or physical strain. The brain craves for 
"something different," but the action must divert the mind to 
new thoughts. 

. . .The ease and alacrity with which the crime is apparently 
committed requires so little effort that a person with criminal 


tendencies would drink in the situation with such a ravenous 
appetite, owing to the receptive condition of" the mind, that the 
desire to simulate the star character could not be resisted, and 
almost before he would be aware of it, would have embarked 
upon a career of crime.' 

While such pronouncements were common, the 
"sources" were often questionable. However, some of 
the warnings against the harmful effects of the motion 
picture came from highly reputable and influential 
sources. William Healy, the pioneer in the study of 
juvenile delinquency, in his seminal work The Individual 
Delinquent, published in 1915, included several case 
studies concerning children who he alleged had been 
"influenced" by moving pictures into committing 
criminal acts. Regarding movies and crime, Healy 
observed: "The strength of the powers of visualization 
is to be deeply reckoned with when considering the 
springs of criminality ... It is the mental representation 
of some sort of pictures of himself or others in the 
criminal that leads the delinquent onward in his path."'^ 
Healy went on to claim that he had "much evidence" 
that "movies may be stimulating to the sex instinct," but 
that the real danger lay in the darkness of the hall where 
the pictures were shown. For "under cover of dimness 
evil communications readily pass and bad habits are 
taught. Moving picture theatres are favorite places for 
the teaching of homosexual practices." The main hope 
for preventing these undesirable effects was to be found 
"in rigorous censorship of perverting pictures, and in 
radical prosecution of those who produce and deal in 
obscene and other demoralizing presentations."" 

Certainly Healy's fear of the darkened movie theatre 
as a source of moral and even physical danger to the 
child was not an unusual concern. In an age when much 
attention is still paid to certain conventions of courtship 
and sexual behaviour, the sight of a darkened room 
where the sexes mixed freely and without supervision 
was sufficient to arouse much moral indignation. The 
sociologist Donald R. Young, in his pioneer exami- 
nation of the morality of the motion picture, noted that 
these fears were not entirely without foundation, for he 
pointed out that new words and phrases had been 
coined to meet these new situations, and "movie 
masher" and "knee flirtation" were added to the 
American vocabulary at precisely this time.'^ 

The Morals of the Movies 

From the outset, Canada because of its geographic 
location was considered to be merely one of the many 
"marketing areas" designated by the American film 
industry. As early as 191 1, the great Canadian reformer 
J.S. Woodsworth had examined the influence of the 
movies on Canadian life. Discussing the influence of the 
entertainment medium on immigrants he noted: 

The fact is, that in itself the picture business is neither good nor 
bad. All depends upon the character of the pictures. Some of 
these are abominably vile and foster crime and immorality of 
all kinds. The majority are simply cheap and vulgar or silly." 

In Brilam too, the influence of the movies wa.s 
considered to be a problem worthy of serious study. In 
1917, the British (jovernment published an extensive 
report on The Cinema: lis Present Position and Future 
Possibilities, which had been undertaken by the 
National Council of Public Morals. The Report left no 
doubt about where its compilers stood regarding the 
importance of the motion picture: 

All other forms of recreation appeal only to a section of the 
community, but the lure of the pictures is universal: while the 
cheapness and accessibility of the houses make it possible for 
the masses to indulge in this enjoyment almost to an unlimited 
extent. In the course of our inquiry we have been much 
impressed by the evidence brought before us that moving 
pictures are having a profound influence upon the mental and 
moral outlook of millions of our young people - an influence 
the more subtle in that it is subconsciously exercised - and we 
leave our labours with the deep conviction that no social 
problem of the day demands more earnest attention. The 
cinema, under wise guidance, may be made a powerful 
influence for good; if neglected, if its abuse is unchecked, its 
potentialities for evil are manifold.''* 

Thus everyone agreed that while the movies had 
enormous potential as "the art of the masses," in their 
current, commercialized state they were "capable of 
evil," as the U.S. Supreme Court was to rule in 1915. 
The question was what could be done to make the 
medium more responsive to local norms and values? 
Many of the movies' particular problems can be 
attributed to the fact that they depended upon both 
local and national support. Because of the centrali- 
zation of the production capability of the motion 
picture industry into one or two cities in each country, 
the movies were in essence national media, but in turn 
susceptible to local pressures and preferences. It was for 
this reason that local control of the motion picture 
became a key issue in the United States. Great Britain, 
and Canada. '- 

The Origins of Censorship 

As we have already noted, no sooner had the first proto- 
types of the movies been introduced than they were 
under attack for being "immoral and offensive to public 
taste." The first official court case involving a movie in 
the United States was People v. Doris in 1897. in which 
the presiding judge ruled that a pantomine of a bride's 
wedding night was "an outrage upon public decency."'* 
This was but the forerunner of many such rulings as the 
long struggle for the control of the content of the 
motion picture began. 

While most of the attention paid to movie content in 
this early period was given to material of a sexual 
nature, the issue of violence was by no means ignored. 
As an example, one of the favourite subjects for early 
film fans, especially in the amusement arcades, was the 
"fight film." which showed the pugilistic talents of many 
of the top boxers of the dav. This exhibition of prize- 
fighters as a popular public entertainment did not meet 
with unanimous approval and ultimately proved to be 


an important obstacle in gaining respectability for the 
new medium. The New York Times, in 1897, stated its 
position on these films quite clearly: 

It is not very creditable to our civilization perhaps that an 
achievement of what is now called the "veriscope" [a form of 
viewing machine] that has attracted and will attract the widest 
attention should be the representation of the prizefight. 
Moralists may deplore the fact that the fight in question "sold 
more extras" than would a presidential election. But they will 
have to eradicate a great deal of human nature before they can 
alter it.'^ 

The continued interest in prizefight films eventually 
resulted in federal legislation to prevent the interstate 
transportation of such films. 

Public interest in films that were violent or depicted 
hfe in the raw was clearly evident, even at this early 
date. Neville Hunnings has noted that there was always 
a scramble to fake films of executions - "the beheading 
of a Chinese criminal outside Mukden, the guillotining 
of four criminals at Bethume, the hanging of a man in 
Missouri." The advertisement for the latter in 1898 
noted: "The set of slides illustrating the gruesome 
spectacle have been pronounced 'good,' and these are to 
be duplicated and public exhibition given in various 
towns."'** Hunnings also mentions various other 
complaints concerning "the portrayal of dead victims of 
mining disasters, of big heavy-weight boxing matches, 
of the hare coursing at the Waterloo Cup, of the 
operation on a woman at Baden. Great indignation was 
aroused by a Danish film which showed two lions eating 
a horse, then being pursued and shot in a lion hunt."'^ 

Even when the concept of "narrative" film developed after 
1900, much of the content early story films was 
concerned with violence. It is more than symbolic that the 
most important film of this period - Edwin S. Porter's The 
Great Train Robbery - was concerned with robbery, violence, 
and death. The closing shot m this film is of a robber turning 
toward the audience and firing his revolver into the camera! 
Accordmg to contemporary accounts, audiences ducked, but 
enjoyed this "shock." 

The use of violent themes in early movies bears a direct 
relationship to the thematic explorations of stage 
melodramas which were extremely popular in the late 
nineteenth century. In his important book, Stage to 
Screen, Nicholas Vardac has clearly shown that the 
movies were a direct descendant of the melodrama, 
taking over the audience from the live entertainment, 
and continuing the audience's "desire for pictorial 
realism." Vardac notes: "Audiences immediately 
identified the cinema, from its first showings, with the 
nineteenth-century vogue of pictorial theatre. It was 
readily established as the most realistic medium yet 
available to the theatrical arts. The stage might 
represent reality but the motion picture could photo- 
graph it."^" The success of story films after Porter's 
pioneering efforts was also due to the audience's 
identification with the plot of these films. As famed film 
historian Lewis Jacobs noted: 

The Americans rarely left their own backyards and streets 
when they were technically able to do so. Fairy tales, fantasies, 
storybook romances, were far removed from their immediate 
interests. Subject matter was derived from American life - 
from the exploits of the policeman and burglar, cowboy and 
factory worker, farmer and country girl, clerk and politican, 
drunkard and servant girl, store keeper and mechanic.^' 

British film historian Alexander Walker has suggested 
that there were valid social reasons for the wholehearted 
acceptance of much of this morbid content: 

It is worth emphasizing that the sentimentality of the plots, 
which jars today, was then very much a fact of life for nickel- 
odeon audiences from the back streets or immigrant ghettos 
where drunkenness bred brutish parents, long-lost off-spring 
were the common price of having to leave one's homeland, and 
the dying babies of melodrama had their statistical reality in 
the infant mortality rate.- 

It was however, precisely this type of content which 
seemed to bother the growing army of detractors of the 
medium. In an article published in the Review of 
Reviews in 1908, an anonymous critic complained: 

One's regret for such exhibitions is deepened by the reflection 
that just as much time and effort have been spent in preparing 
the films for these pictures, as would have been in producing 
others of a more dcsireable character . . . And all the thought, 
time and energy have been expended for the portrayal of the 
realism of bloodshed, crime and brutality.^-' 

Such sentiments were popular, and combined with the 
obvious popularity of entertainment, and the unprece- 
dented growth of audiences, led to increasing alarm 
among those concerned with safeguarding the public's 

Movie Censorship - The United States 

Once the movie houses became an accepted feature of 
the urban scene, the first oflficial attempts were made to 
place the movies under a form of permanent local 
control. In 1907 an editorial appeared in the Chicago 
Tribune which attached the city's motion picture houses. 
This editorial noted of the current films from being 

[They are] . . . without a redeeming feature to warrant their 
existence . . . ministering to the lowest passions of childhood 
. . . proper to suppress them at once . . . influence is wholly 
vicious . . . They are hopelessly bad.^" 

As a result of this editorial and other resolutions 
presented to the Chicago City Council, an ordinance 
was passed which gave the city the power to censor all 
films through the Superintendent of Police. In an 
important legal contest the ordinance was held valid in 
1909 by the Supreme Court of Illinois, and yet later by 
the Supreme Court of the United States. -^^ Chicago had 
taken the bold and somewhat "un-American" step of 
instituting official prior censorship, something no other 
medium of communication had been subjected to since 
the drafting of the Constitution. 

Though film censorship began in Chicago, it was in 
New York that the bolder step was taken on December 


24, 1908, when Mayor George B. McClellan ordered the 
poHce to close every movie house in that city. This was 
later set aside by a court injunction, but in an attempt 
to forestall any further such action in the future, the 
industry prevailed upon the People's Institute, a body 
concerned with social research and adult education, to 
organize a citizens' committee which would preview all 
motion pictures before they were shown in New York 
cinemas. This committee, in March 1909, became the 
National Board of Censorship of Motion Pictures, later 
changing its name in 1915 to the National Board of 
Review of Motion Pictures, a name which it retains to 
this day. 

From the first the aim of the organization was not 
that of true "censorship," but as film historian Terry 
Ramsaye indicated, " 'censorship' became a necessary 
word, because to satisfy the public and oflficial mind of 
the day the naughty, naughty motion picture had to be 
spanked on the wrist. "-^ The basic philosophy of the 
National Board was based on the principle that the 
motion-picture screen had a right to the same First 
Amendment freedom accorded to all the other media. 
Because it was difficult to establish precisely what was 
"moral" or "immoral" the board relied on the concept 
that "where questions of taste and morals overlap, . . . 
public opinion, which is the compound of all tastes and 
all ideas of morals is the only competent judge of the 
screen, and that there can be no popular functioning of 
public opinion unless freedom of the screen exists in 
order that the public may judge what shall be presented 
to it . . . "27 

The mechanism established by the Board to carry out 
its vast task was to engage a large number of volunteers, 
and a limited staff of paid workers for routine duties. 
The Board extracted a "fee" from each filmmaker for 
"examining" his film, and "suggesting" possible 
changes. However, the Board had no legal powers to 
demand such changes, and its financial dependency 
upon the film industry led to many critical attacks. It is 
important to note that although the Board depended 
indirectly upon the filmmakers for the bulk of its 
support, it was never an official arm of the motion- 
picture industry. In the long run the nbr failed to stem 
the criticisms aimed at "objectionable" films, although 
through its education programs it did do much to make 
the public aware of the "better" films. Nevertheless, in 
the period before 1922, the nbr represented the major 
attempt at creating a "public voice" in the American 
motion picture scene. 

After 1922, and the creation of the centralized 
industry association - The Motion Picture Producers 
and Distributors of America (mppda), otherwise known 
as the Hays Office - the industry attempted a more 
organized appeal to the public for the right of 
self-regulation.'^* After twelve years of trying desper- 
ately to convince the studios to follow his suggestions. 
Will H. Hays, the President of the mppda, was still 
unable to obtain adherence to the various codes of 

regulation which he had established. In 1932, nearly 
forty national religious organizations and educational 
groups had adopted resolutions calling for some form of 
federal regulation of the motion picture industry. In 
fact, the industry resisted real reform until a unique 
combination of circumstances and ingredients - the 
arrival of sound, the Depression, the Hays Office, and 
the Roman Catholic Legion of Decency - finally caused 
the industry to adjust its position to accommodate 
many of the reforms so long sought. 

Hays had tried various methods of self-regulation 
during the period 1922-1933, including the examination 
of all scripts before filming began, advising the studios 
about the problems likely to be encountered from state 
and local censors, and even the establishment of a set of 
"Don'ts and Be Carefuls" which were supposed to be 
adhered to, but, in fact, seldom were. Eventually, faced 
with increasing pressures from the Catholic Legion of 
Decency, and the financial squeeze of the Depression, 
the motion-picture industry in 1934 finally adopted a 
Code which proved to be an enforceable means of self- 
regulation. The infamous Production Code (often known 
by its administrative title. The Breen Office), became 
the foundation for over thirty years of viable self-regula- 
tion, although film historians now tend to see it as a 
restrictive and confining stranglehold on the industry's 
creative development. 

In substance the Code tried to encompass all the 
problems previously encountered, but. even more 
important, it gave public reaffirmation of the mppda's 
desire to meet its public obligations. The Code was 
based on the premise that motion pictures as enter- 
tainment and art aff'ected the moral life of a people, and 
that therefore the medium was charged with special 
moral responsibilities because of its wide appeal and 
availability. Therefore it followed that "latitude given to 
film material cannot, in consequence, be as wide as the 
latitude given to book material." The "Preamble" 
section of the Code also compared the motion picture to 
newspapers and plays in this context, and even noted 
the crucial problems of community differences in one 
section: "Small communities: remote from sophisti- 
cation and from the hardening process which often 
takes place in the ethical and moral standards of groups 
in larger cities, are easily and readily reached by any 
sort of film. "2^ It is important to note that although the 
Code was actually introduced in 1930, it was not until 
1934, and after the emergence of the Legion of 
Decency, that Will Hays was able to secure the 
necessary "teeth" to enforce adherence to the Code by 
the various studios. The spectre of a continuous boycott 
by the powerful Catholic group had proven to be the 
necessary factor which Hays had sought for so long. 

The Legion of Decency was founded in 1934 for the 
express purpose of putting pressure on the film industry 
to "mend its ways." Using the full machinery of the 
Catholic Church, a large number of Catholics and of 
other denominations signed a pledge which said in part: 


I wish to join the Legion of Decency, which condemns vile and 
unwholesome moving pictures. I unite with all who protest 
against them as a grave menace to youth, to home life, to 
country and to religion . . . 

Considering these evils, I hereby promise to remain away from 
all motion pictures except those which do not offend decency 
and Christian morality. I promise further to secure as many 
members as possible for the Legion of Decency. I make this 
protest in a spirit of self respect, and with the conviction that 
the American public does not demand filthy pictures, but clean 
entertainment and educational features. 

The Catholic Church, with its intensive campaign 
against what it considered to be essentially immoral 
doctrines prevalent in motion pictures, had succeeded 
in focusing public attention on this social problem to an 
extent never before accomplished by any pressure 
group. Whereas the Protestant groups had for twenty- 
five years taken the initiative in the fight against the 
encroaching social influence of the motion picture, they 
had failed to make any real or permanent gains; 
however, the Catholic Church was able to accompUsh 
its appointed task within one year. In the long run, it 
has been estimated that nearly eleven million CathoHcs, 
and countless others from Protestant denominations 
signed the pledge. 

The Legion functioned by publishing lists of films 
which had been "morally rated" and making them 
available to anyone or any group that was interested. 
These lists, prepared weekly, were made available to the 
diocesan presses and carried by most of them; or they 
were posted in the vestibules of churches and on 
bulletin boards of parochial schools. In this way almost 
every parishioner was reached by the Legion, enabling 
the Catholic Church to communicate its motion-picture 
preferences directly to almost twenty million Ameri- 
cans. Thus it was able to combat the problem of varia- 
tions in local standards by imposing one "national" 
standard for all Catholics. Nevertheless, local pressure 
was still the key to the operation of the Legion - 
pressure on the Catholic congregation and pressure on 
the individual exhibitors. This meant that the Catholic 
Church was able to accomplish by "institutional force" 
what other groups such as the National Board of 
Review had been unable to achieve, even though the 
Board's attempts to involve local communities were 
very similar to the goals of the Legion. 

It is important to note that the Legion did not see 
itself as a "censor." The official position was that the 
rating activity provided "eff"ective guidance" to the 
church's followers by telling them which films were 
more or less apt to be "occasions of sin." The Legion 
saw its function primarily as that of a pressure group, 
whose aim was to represent Catholic opinion and 
thereby assist in maintaining the effectiveness of the 
industry's self-regulatory bodies. The Hays Office 
continued to be the only source of direct authoritative 
control over the industry's product, although of course 
the many state and local censorship boards still 

continued to function, as did the National Board of 

Tlie Payne Fund Studies 

It was not entirely a coincidence that in 1933, when the 
Catholic Legion of Decency made its move, that there 
appeared a series of published research studies, known 
as the Payne Fund Studies, which examined the role 
and impact of the motion picture in greater depth than 
ever before. In 1928, the Reverend William H. Short, 
the executive director of the Motion Picture Research 
Council, secured a grant of $200,000 to carry out a 
nationwide study to determine the degrees of influence 
and effect of films upon children and adolescents. The 
task of actual investigation was given to a group of 
social scientists - psychologists, sociologists, and 
educators - who were under the direction of Dr. W.W. 
Charters, the director of the Bureau of Educational 
Research, Ohio State University. The actual field 
research was conductd over the four-year period from 
1929 to 1933, and the first volume appeared in 1933.^" 

While each study was a self-contained research work, 
the significant findings were conveniently (and often 
simplistically) summarized in the volume entitled 
Motion Pictures and Youth, by Professor Charters. In 
discussing the overall design of the studies. Charters 
developed a formula, which in simplified form stated: 

General Influence x Content x Attendance = Total Influence 

The formula as thus computed was open to criticism, 
but it was never applied in the final assessment in any 
meaningful manner. TTie formula did, however, 
influence the design of the individual studies, which 
focused on such areas as attendance, content of motion 
pictures, the mores depicted on the screen relative to 
accepted social standards, the retention of information, 
the ability to change attitudes, the effects upon sleep 
and health, the emotional eflfects, the relationship 
between motion pictures and juvenile delinquency, and 
even how children could be taught to discriminate 
between "good" and "bad" cinema. 

The studies utilized four general research methods to 
obtain their results: (1) the strictly physiological experi- 
mental procedure, used in the studies on emotions and 
the effects of movies on sleep; (2) the "paper and 
pencil" testing technique; (3) the use of rating scales; 
and (4) the questionnaire, life story, and interview 
methods. In order to meet the objectives set for this 
pioneering inquiry many novel research techniques had 
to be devised. As an example, one researcher measured 
the immediate effects of exciting movie scenes by the 
use of the psychogalvanic reflex, while another devi,sed 
a method of studying the after-eflfects of the motion 
picture by measuring divergences from the normal 
motility of children during sleep. 

The studies conducted by the questionnaire or 
autobiographical methods were the most contentious, 
for they attempted to examine the diflficult problem of 


the effects of the motion picture upon conduct and 
ideas. In Herbert Blumer's examination of movies and 
social conduct the question of the medium's general 
influence was brought into focus. This particular study 
was possibly the most important of all; but it was also 
the most "suspect" in its finding, because it was based 
entirely on motion-picture "biographies" from college 
students, office workers, and factory workers. After 
ensuring that several checks and balances were placed 
into the research procedure, Blumer concluded that the 
movies did indeed have a deep and permanent psycho- 
logical effect on many people - both adults and youths. 
The motion picture provided a source for rich fantasy 
and imitation, especially among adolescents, and it 
offered a means of "emotional possession" during the 
actual performance, and even afterward, which could 
profoundly influence an individual's conduct and 
philosophy of life. This constant exposure to a wide 
variety of emotional experiences was bound to have a 
disintegrating effect on many people, especially those 
who had not yet developed a sufficient emotional 
detachment or an "adult discount" which permitted 
them to place these vicarious experiences in proper 

Taken as a whole, the most striking feature of the 
conclusions reached in the series of studies was the wide 
range of "individual differences" evidenced in the 
subjects examined. Factors such as age, sex, personal 
experience, and cultural backgrounds such as home and 
family, neighbourhood, community standards, social 
and economic status - all these contributed to the 
individual's response to the motion picture. Throughout 
the studies there was a note of cautious interpretation in 
an attempt to present the material as objectively as 

Unfortunately, the intentions of the original 
researchers were thwarted by the early publication of 
Our Movie Made Children, a popularization of the 
studies written by journalist Henry James Forman with 
the full cooperation of Dr. Charters. While there is no 
denying that the studies as a group showed an under- 
lying but subtle hostility toward the immense socializing 
influence of the movies, Forman's book was a blatant 
attack on the industry, and pointedly suggested that 
some form of major outside control be placed on the 
motion-picture industry. 

The motion picture industry was obviously disturbed 
by the published findings of the Payne Fund Studies, 
and particularly by the public reception of Forman's 
book. We do know that in March, 1933, the full board 
of directors of the mppda agreed to a complete renewal 
of their original 1922 dedication to "establish and 
maintain the highest possible moral and artistic 
standards," and gave an oral promise that more films of 
a "better" quality would be forthcoming. 

Exactly how much influence the Payne Fund studies 
had in bringing about a stricter enforcement of self-reg- 
ulation is very difficult to estimate, although their publi- 

cation must have had a catalytic significance. Certainly 
their major findings, mainly in the form of digests of 
t'orman's book, were widely published and m many formed the background data for strong attacks on 
the motion picture industry. Women's groups, in partic- 
ular, responded to the results, and banded together to 
form the Film Estimate Board of National Organiza- 
tions. And it was also clear that the wide dissemination 
of the Payne Fund findings did influence the Catholic 
Church in its crusade, although here too, the evidence 
for such a connection is not conclusive. 

The Payne Fund Studies, while they can be criticized 
on purely methodological grounds, nevertheless were 
important documents, not only for what they described, 
but also for what they represented. In many ways their 
publication symbolized the culmination of the long 
struggle to make the motion picture industry more 
responsive to certain public attitudes. More important, 
their findings tended to confirm some of the suspicions 
of reformers who for years had counselled that uncon- 
trolled influence of the medium had created an 
undesirable and dangerous socializing force. 

Official Censorship in the U.S. 

It was at the state level that oflRcial censorship was most 
effectively enforced in the U.S. The first state to legislate 
official censorship of the movies was Pennsylvania, 
which created a board of censors in 1911. This was 
followed by Ohio in 1913. Kansas in 1914, New York 
and Virginia in 1922. The institution of official 
censorship legislation at this higher level of government 
did not augur well for the film makers, and almost 
immediately after state censorship first appeared the 
industry decided to challenge the concept of prior 
censorship in the courts. 

In the case of Mutual Film Corporation v. Ohio?^ the 
United States Supreme Court handed down a decision 
that was to have a far-reaching consequence for the 
young industry. In a unanimous decision, speaking 
through Justice McKenna, the Court dismissed the 
Detroit-based company's complaint against the Ohio 
prior-censorship law. The distributing company had 
contended that the Ohio law violated the First Amend- 
ment. Nevertheless the Court considered the company's 
charges unsound and they were dismissed, while the 
First Amendment claim was ignored. The m.ost 
important aspect of the decision was the Court's refusal 
to construe the Constitution of Ohio to include the 
motion-picture medium. 

The Court therefore effectively relegated motion 
pictures to the same entertainment category as carnival 
sideshows. Their decision stated in part: 

It cannot be put out of view that the exhibition of moving 
pictures is a business pure and simple, originated and 
conducted for profit, like other spectacles, not to be regarded, 
nor intended to be regarded as part of the press of the country 
or as organs of public opinion. Thev are mere representations 
of events, of ideas and sentiments published or known; vivid. 

useful, and entertaining, no doubt, but . . . capable of evil, 
having power for it, the greater because of their attractiveness 
and manner of exhibition.^- 

Professor Richard S. Randall has made the point that 
"once the Court found movies not to be speech, it was 
unnecessary to take up the claim of federal 
protection. "-^-^ In fact, the question of First Amendment 
protection was premature, for it was not then regarded 
as binding upon the states. It was only in 1925 that the 
decision handed down in Gitlow v. New York established 
the principle that the states must be mindful of free 
speech and press as set forth in the Constitution of the 
United States. A close scrutiny of the Supreme Court's 
decision reveals several dubious premises which would 
not stand up today. First, the view that the motion 
picture was "a business pure and simple" ignored the 
growth of the film as art. Second, the Court suggested 
that movies were merely a spectacle such as carnival 
sideshows or circuses, and therefore were not subject to 
the protection of the free-speech clauses in state consti- 
tutions. The basis for this judgment lies in the tradi- 
tional judicial suspicion of the arts. While it was 
obvious to the Court that the motion picture could be a 
medium for spreading ideas or education, in this 
judgment only its entertainment role was considered. 

The third of the dubious suppositions is the most 
difficult to substantiate, but was potentially the most 
far-reaching in its implications. Much of the Court's 
hostility shown in the final verdict was predicated on 
the belief that this powerful new medium, if misused by 
unscrupulous, commercially minded men, possessed a 
"capacity for evil" against which every community 
should be given the right to shield itself. The decision 
therefore had a profound eff"ect upon the industry and 
its relationship to the local community, for it was 
construed to mean that motion picture censorship was 
permissible under the Constitution, and many state 
courts would uphold similar censorship laws on these 
grounds. Thus the whole issue of prior censorship was 
given an aura of judicial approval. Obviously the 
Supreme Court of the United States was not yet sure of 
how to deal with a mass medium which manifested the 
appealing characteristics of motion picture, and it 
therefore gave the most conservative decision possible 
under the circumstances. In all fairness to the justices it 
must be pointed out that very little was known at this 
time about the effect of the mass media in general, and 
the motion picture in particular, and the strong 
opposition to the entertainment medium already 
obvious in certain quarters must have had some residual 
influence on the Court. Certainly, the Supreme Court 
was not prepared to give free licence to such an 
unknown factor. Unfortunately this decision, and the 
premises upon which it was based, would result in much 
abuse of the privilege of prior censorship, and 
eventually shift the focus from a concern for the 
public's morals to a concern for its social and political 
thought as well. 

It would not be until 1952 that the Supreme Court 
agreed to hear another case involving motion-picture 
censorship. This was the celebrated Miracle decision 
(Burstyn v. Wilson), which on May 26, 1952, reversed the 
1915 Mutual Film ruling.^'' After ignoring the issue for 
thirty-seven years, the Supreme Court had at long last 
recognized the motion picture as an important medium 
for the communication of ideas, and therefore entitled 
to the same protection under the First Amendment as 
speech and press. The Miracle was a fairly obscure 
Italian film with a religious theme which had run afoul 
of New York State authorities, who felt that it was 
"blasphemous." The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously 
reversed the New York decision, and Justice Clark, 
speaking for the Court, noted that "... it cannot be 
doubted that motion pictures are a significant medium 
for the communication of ideas. They may aflfect public 
attitudes and behavior in a variety of ways, ranging 
from direct espousal of a political or social doctrine to 
the subtle shaping of thought which characterizes all 
artistic expression. "^^ 

Despite this breakthrough, the Supreme Court was 
still very cautious. Clark was careful to point out that 
movies were still not to be afforded the same full consti- 
tutional protection as books, newspapers, and other 
forms of publication. He observed: "It does not follow 
that the Constitution requires absolute freedom to 
exhibit every motion picture of every kind at all times 
and all places. Nor does it follow that motion pictures 
are necessarily subject to the precise rules governing 
any other particular method of expression. Each tends 
to present its own peculiar problems."^^ 

What was clear from this historic incident was that 
the achievement of free speech in the motion picture 
would take more than court decisions, and restrictions 
on censors; it would also require a desire on the part of 
the film industry to make the most of its new-found 
freedom to create the "mature and responsible" cinema 
it had promised for so long. 

In the nine-year period after Burstyn, the Supreme 
Court heard six further motion picture cases, and in 
each one the powers of the censors were further 
reduced. In 1961, in the case of Times Film Corp. v. 
Chicago, the Supreme Court examined the fundamental 
question of the permissibility of local censorship. On 
January 23, 1961, in a close 5 to 4 decision, the Court 
upheld the city of Chicago's right to license films. 
Justice Clark, speaking for the majority, saw the 
distributor's complaint as involving the claim that 
constitutional protection "includes complete and 
absolute freedom to exhibit, at least once, any and every 
kind of motion picture." This would automatically void 
the city ordinance requiring prior permission. Obscenity 
was clearly not protected by the Constitution, and to 
accept this argument against prior censorship would be 
to strip a state of "all constitutional power to prevent, in 
the most effective fashion, the utterance of this class of 
speech. "^^ Clark also noted that the movies' "capacity 


for evil may be relevant in determining the permissible 
scope of community control," and that movies were not 
"necessarily subject to the precise rules governing any 
other particular method of expression.""^ However, the 
Justice was careful to point out that the Court was not 
holding that censors should be granted the power to 
prevent exhibition of any film they found distasteful. 

In a long, rambling dissent on behalf of the minority 
opinion. Chief Justice Warren did not question the right 
to censor, but noted that Chicago ordinance offered no 
procedural safeguards, and there was no trial on the 
issue before restraint became effective. Also, the act of 
censorship itself was considered to be wrong, in that the 
censor's decisions were insulated from the public and 
subject to no defence on the part of the film owner. The 
most important part of Warren's dissent, however, was 
his challenge that the majority opinion had not even 
attempted to justify why motion pictures should be 
treated any differently from other media, to the extent 
that they should be denied protection from prior 
restraint or censorship. Even if they had greater impact 
than other media, this was not a sufficient basis for 
subjecting them to greater suppression. 

The immediate reaction to the Court's decision in the 
Times case was mainly negative. The New York Times 
favoured the opinion of the minority judges, who "took 
the sounder view and the one that in the long run will 
prevail."^^ Film critic Bosley Crowther, lor:g the 
champion of freedom for the movies, commented that 
"the effect is to continue the ancient stigma of motion 
pictures as a second-class, subordinate art."''° However, 
the Times decision did not result in the expected flood 
of new censorship legislation. Instead, the 1960s was a 
decade of unprecedented increase in "freedom of 
expression" in the American cinema. Not only sexual 
freedom was obvious, but an increase in graphic 
violence became a major point of contention as the 
beleaguered studios sought to outdo each other for the 
dwindling box-office dollar. 

What became clear was that the United States courts 
had no legal method to deal with increased violent 
content. However, sexual material was still subject to 
examination under the "obscenity" definition, and this 
left the door open for further Supreme Court activity, 
although the end result is by no means clearcut. In June 
1973, the Supreme Court once again entered the picture 
with a series of rulings which served to create even more 
confusion in the movie industry. "This is an area m 
which there are few eternal verities." wrote Chief Justice 
Warren E. Burger. He announced a new definition of 
obscenity and consequently presented a possibly disas- 
trous situation for the movie industry by opening the 
way for a return to conditions resembling those of 1915. 

In a complex of five decisions, the Court's conserv- 
ative majority, prevailing by a one-vote margin, opened 
the way for states and federal government to limit 
further the distribution of sexually oriented material 

deemed to be offensive by local community standards. 
The majority held that: 

To fall into the category of obscene material which states can 
suppress or regulate without violating the First Amendment, 
material no longer has to be found utterly without redeeming 
social value, but only to lack serious literary, artistic, political 
or scientific value. 

The question of the ofTensiveness of material can be judged 

against local, not national, community standards.*' 

After this decision, the film industry, predictably, was m 
an uproar. Jack Valenti, the President of the mpaa (the 
MPPAA had altered its name to the Motion Picture 
Association of America in 1945), noted that "the great, 
artistic, serious filmmakers will be harassed and 
possibly convicted because of the lack of clear 
guidelines.'"*^ Valenti had every reason to be apprehen- 
sive, for while the Court's ruling was clearly aimed at 
destroying the commercial exploitation of hard-core 
pornographic films, many local and state authorities 
saw this as an opportunity to legally attack serious, 
well-intentioned films. An early indication of this came 
two weeks later, when the Georgia Supreme Court ruled 
that the critically acclaimed film Carnal Knowledge was 
"obscene." Valenti declared that the mpaa would pursue 
to the highest court in the land the legal freedom f^or 
responsible filmmakers to tell their story without the 
harassment which was inevitable under these rulings. 

In June, 1974, the Supreme Court ruled, in a 
unanimous decision, that Carnal Knowledge was not 
obscene. Justice Rehnquist. writing for the Court, 
noted: "Our own view of the film satisfies us that Carnal 
Knowledge could not be found under the [Court's 1973] 
standards to depict sexual conduct in a patently 
offensive way." The problem was that the justices still 
offered no clear guidelines to what was obscene, and 
Justice Brennan pointed out the ridiculous situation 
that "one cannot say with certainty that material is 
obscene until at least five members of this Court, 
applying inevitably obscure standards, have 
pronounced it so.'"*^ 

After nearly sixty years the motion picture was no 
nearer achieving freedom from legal restraint than it 
had been in 1915. While the grounds for censorship had 
been gradually refined down to a test for "obscenity," 
the vagueness of the concept, and the fact that its appli- 
cation was to be left to local communities, each 
applying their own standards, could only encourage 
continued harassment. The current situation will mean 
a constant stream of censorship ("obscenity") cases 
before the Supreme Court, until such time as the justices 
issue firm and clear guidelines; or finally agree that the 
movies should be freed totally from the burden of 

The Attempt to Classify 

With the obvious decline in the Production Code, the 
question of "classification" invariably arose. In 1968. 
the Supreme Court of the United States handed down 


two decisions which had a profound effect on the movie 
industry's decision to attempt adoption of a classifi- 
cation scheme. In Interstate v. Dallas, the Court invah- 
dated an age classification because of the vagueness of 
the standards, but hinted that age classification systems 
with more tightly drawn standards might survive the 
application of constitutional tests.''^ On the same day, 
the Court ruled in Ginsberg v. New York that a New 
York statute which prohibited the sale to minors of 
material that young people would find obscene was 
legal, even though the same material could not be 
considered obscene if adults were to read it."*^ Thus the 
Dallas case, if examined in the context of the Ginsberg 
ruling, clearly allows cities and states to attempt movie 
control through more tightly drawn classification laws. 

However, as lawyer Louis Nizer pointed out to the 
MPAA, the way was now open for every city or state in 
the country to devise its own classification system, and 
the industry would be advised to introduce its own 
system. The president of the mpaa. Jack Valenti, after 
long negotiations with various distributors and theatre- 
owner organizations, eventually developed a system 
acceptable to all. The ratings system was designed to do 
away with the old Code and its prohibitive restrictions, 
and to allow the filmmaker "unprecedented creative 
freedom, while at the same time maintaining a system of 
'self-regulation' that would ease the pressures for some 
form of government classification."''^ Under the plan, 
there were no restrictions in thematic content or 
treatment of any film, but the final result would be 
assigned one of four ratings: G (all ages admitted); M 
(suggested for mature audiences - adults and young 
mature people); R (restricted; children under sixteen 
required an accompanying parent or adult); or X (no 
one under sixteen admitted). In early 1970, the M rating 
was changed to PG (all ages admitted; parental 
guidance suggested), as the M tended to be confusing. 
At the same time the R and X age limits were upped to 

With the introduction of the ratings system, the old 
Production Code Administration was replaced by the 
MPAA Code and Rating Administration (Cara). There 
are seven permanent members of cara based in Los 
Angeles, who examine both scripts and the final films. 
Despite Valenti's contention that the ratings system was 
working well, several groups have come out in 
opposition to cara. On the one side are filmmakers who 
are concerned with the "moral labelling" of the 
creations; on the other stand the groups who are contin- 
ually concerned with the growing explicitness of 
violence and sex in the movies. On May 18, 1971. both 
the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures and 
the National Council of Churches' Broadcasting and 
Film Commission withdrew their support from the 
MPAA because of "the growing number of films unsui- 
table for the young, coupled with the clearly unrealistic 
ratings handed out . . .'"'^ It was specifically the 
increasing number of films exploiting sex and violence 

that were given PG ratings which aroused these 
religious groups. Writing in the Catholic weekly 
America, Philip C. Rule noted that the mpaa and its 
ratings were no more equipped to handle the current 
movie content than the mppda had been with the Code. 
Rule prophesied ominously, "It all appears to be 
building up to something: either a change in film fare, a 
better and more eff"ective rating system or some form of 
control from outside the industry [censorship].'"'* 

Film Censorship in Britain 

As we had seen earlier, opposition to films in Britain 
began as early as 1896. By 1909, the fledgling industry 
saw the benefits to be derived from a centralized 
authority; not only would it remove the difficulty of 
having to deal with a large number of local authorities, 
but it would also "kill off' the smaller exhibitors who 
apparently were responsible for many of the difficulties. 
The resulting Cinematograph Act of 1909 was intended 
solely to establish fire precautions. However, local 
authorities thought otherwise. As Neville Hunnings 

As soon as its duty to issue licenses to cinemas came into effect 
on Jan. 1, 1910, the London County Council took the attitude 
that applications should be treated in the same way as applica- 
tions for music hall licences . . . Other local authorities 
gradually followed this example, until August 1910 the rule was 
fairly widespread throughout the country.'''* 

The industry, now alarmed at the unexpected extension 
of legal power, decided that the solution lay in the 
appointment of a trade censor. Although the Home 
Secretary refused to give active support, pointing out 
that the statutory powers lay with local authorities, the 
industry passed a motion in July 1912 that "censorship 
is necessary and advisable." In November the 
formation of the British Board of Film Censors was 
announced, to be under the Presidency of G.A. Redford 
who had much experience as Examiner of Plays for the 
Lord Chamberlain. Redford and his four examiners 
started work on January 1, 1913, and he was able to 
announce that all films released in Britain after March 1 
would bear the censor's certificate. 

Submission of films to the Board was purely volun- 
tary, and many companies ignored it. A more important 
weakness, however, remained the complete autonomy 
of the local authorities.^*^ Guy Phelps in his history of 
film censorship in Britain indicates that by the end of 
1915 only thirty-five councils had adopted clauses stipu- 
lating that all films to be shown must have the censor's 
certificate. Tlie rest, including all the important local 
councils, retained their full powers. When it became 
apparent that this dual system was not working, the 
industry and the local authorities made a renewed plea 
to the Home Office for the appointment of an official 
censor. A new Home Secretary was more .sympathetic, 
and accordingly a plan was drawn up; however, a 
change of government led to the cancellation of the 
scheme, and a reaffirmation of the powers of the local 


authorities. As Phelps notes: "Thus narrowly was a 
development averted which would have changed the 
whole history of film censorship in this country.""^' 

It was shortly after this that the Report of the Cinema 
Commission of Inquiry was published in 1917. "It 
cleared the film industry of most of the charges then 
being laid against it and reported favourably on the 
work of the bbic With this support and under a new 
and vigorous President. T.P. O'Connor (Redford having 
died in 1916), the Board was able to consolidate its 
position. "^^ The most important development, however, 
was the adoption of the influential Middlesex and 
London County Councils of the Board's certificate as a 
requirement for their licences. "This development 
finally convinced the trade that the Board was a viable 
proposition, and that with the full cooperation of 
members it could be made to work."" 

The Board, from the first, had issued two certificates; 
the "U" Category (Universal) indicated that the film 
was specially recommended for children's matinee 
performances, while "A" (Public) implied that the film 
was more suitable for adults. The lcc however, radically 
changed this system, stipulating that no "young person" 
would be admitted unless the film was certified for 
"public" admission, or accompanied by an adult. The 
film industry protested vigorously at this restriction, but 
to no avail, and the lcc's example was soon followed by 
other authorities. In 1923, the Home Oflfice suggested to 
all local authorities that they should adopt the lcc rules, 
and by the end of 1924 most of them had done so. It 
was these conditions that formed the basis for film 
censorship in Britain. "A few local authorities, most 
notably Manchester, refused to acknowledge it and 
applied their own rules, but in general it was accepted, 
and pressures for a radical revision have been rare."-'* 

The local authorities continue to play an important 
role in film censorship in Britain. Not only do they keep 
a wary eye on film societies, but much of their energy is 
devoted to operating the classifications of the bbfc, to 
examining films which had not been examined by the 
Board or which had been objected to by members of the 
public, or to consultation with each other and with the 
Home Oflfice in attempts to obtain greater control over 
the activities of the Board itself. 

A new Cinematograph Act was introduced in 1952, 
and so well entrenched was the censorship system by 
this time that at no point during the parliamentary 
debates was it seriously suggested that any machinery 
other than that based on the local councils and the bbfc 
was possible or desirable. The new Act did abolish all 
reference to "safety and inflammability," and substi- 
tuted "regulation" as the key concept underlying 

In 1950, a Committee of Inquiry (The Wheare 
Committee) recommended that the Censor Board 
introduce a new "X" certificate for adults only. This 
was done in January, 1951. This step was opposed by 
the three main cinema circuits -Rank's Odeon and 

Gaumont circuits and A. B.C. As the receipts of these 
circuits depended to a large extent on regular patronage 
by family audiences, they feared that "X" films would 
disrupt the attendance pattern and cause a fall in the 
box office. After some reluctant tests, the circuits proved 
to be correct, and Rank announced that it would not 
book any "X" films in the future, while A. B.C. stated 
that it would book only outstanding "X" films. 
Eventually the "X" film lost its disastrous reputation, 
and so too the Board gradually changed its attitudes to 
reflect the more mature cinema of the 1950s and 1960s. 

In the mid-1970s, Britain still has a fairly strict film 
censorship, and despite the inroads of "private film 
clubs," the hard-core pornographic material available in 
the United States has not been allowed into Britain. In 
the last few years the bbf c has come under increasing 
attack, and only last year the Secretary of the Board. 
Stephen Murphy, resigned after disagreements with the 
trade. There is. however, no serious threat to abolish 
film censorship in the near future. 

Film Censorship in Ontario 
The History of the Board 

The Province of Ontario first enacted film censorship 
legislation in 1911. when on March 24. "The Theatres 
and Cinematographs Act" was passed. (While Ontario's 
claim to have enacted the first statute to provide specifi- 
cally for film censorship is historically correct, both 
Manitoba and Quebec passed similar, if less tidy, legis- 
lation on exactly the same day. Quebec's 1911 "Act 
respecting exhibitions of moving pictures" had an 
antecedent in earlier legislation governing "all pubhc 
exhibitions of monsters, idiots or other imbecile or 
deformed persons, tending to endanger public safety 
. . ." which had been enacted in 1887.) The Ontario 
statute does, however, represent the first major attempt 
to implement social control of the cinema, and was a 
direct outcome of the increasing clamour for such legis- 
lation by reformist organizations such as the Social and 
Moral Reform Association. The Premier of Ontario, the 
Honourable Sir James P. Whitney, noted dunng the 
debate on the proposed legislation that these pro-cen- 
sorship groups were genuine in their expression of fear 
of the evils inherent in motion pictures and the possible 
influence on the young. This was a common sentiment 
at the time, and similar concerns were currently being 
expressed throughout the United States and Britain. 
(The State of Pennsylvania enacted censorship legis- 
lation in 191 Land the British Board of Film Censors 
was created in 1913.) 

The Ontario 1911 Act was deliberately broad, and 
gave the Lieutenant Governor the power to make 
regulations "for prohibiting films to be exchanged 
[distributed] or exhibited." and also provided for the 
creation of a Board of Censors "composed of three 
persons who shall have the power to permit the 
exhibition or absolutely to prohibit or reject all films 
which it is proposed to use . . . and to suspend tor cause 


the licence of any operator [projectionist]." The Act also 
allowed for an appeal process, and provision was made 
for films to be stamped by the Board of Censors after 
they had been approved; and such stamps had to be 
visible on the screen when the films were shown. There 
was also an interesting, but unfortunately short-lived 
clause providing that "no exhibition of such stamped 
film shall be prohibited by any police officer, or 
constable or other person, on account of anything 
contained in such film." This section was abolished in 
1914. presumably because local authorities' opinion 
tended to conflict with the opinions of the Board of 
Censors based in Toronto. (This is an important 
problem, which is examined below.) 

On June 27. 1911, the first Ontario Censorship Board 
was formed under the chairmanship of George G. 
Armstrong, and reported to the Provincial Treasurer. 
The evaluative criteria provided to the Board merely 
noted that "No picture of an immoral or obscene nature 
or depicting a crime or reproducing a prize fight shall be 
exhibited." In 1915, the composition of the Board was 
changed from three to "such number of persons as may 
be deemed necessary," and additional assistants were 
added to the one existing inspector. Obviously, the 
increase in the number of exhibition sites throughout 
the Province necessitated this move. 

By 1919, the increasing demand for women's rights 
led to newspaper criticism of the Censor Board's reluc- 
tance to appoint a female Board member on a 
permanent basis. The result of this outcry was that the 
Board found itself deluged with applications from 
women all over Ontario; by the end of the one year one 
woman was appointed as a permanent member. In 
1921, when the Board was once again reconstituted 
under the Chairmanship of Major A.S. Hamilton, two 
of the five permanent members were women. Undoubt- 
edly this was in recognition not only of the key role that 
women played as patrons of the movie houses, but also 
of the increasing importance of women's groups in the 
fight to place the movies under more stringent 

In 1921, Major Hamilton and his fellow censors 
attempted to articulate the criteria upon which they 
based their evaluations of the films submitted to them. 
The resultant pamphlet. Standards of the Ontario Board 
of Censors of Motion Pictures and its Field of Work, is a 
fascinating historical document, which clearly illustrates 
the primary concern of reformers about the supposed 
"power" of the movies. The "general policy" noted that 
the Board "realizes the educational and recreational 
value of Moving Pictures, and will endeavour to save all 
pictures possible." The problem of regional variations in 
tastes and values was also recognized in that "it will try 
to make its judgments from the standpoint of a normal 
Ontario audience." The pamphlet then detailed a series 
of situations such as "display of flags, cruelty to 
animals, firearms, crime and arson, insanity and death, 
costumes and nudity, sex. advertising and drugs," with 

suggestions as to how these should be handled to avoid 
censorship. The last paragraph, "TTie Future" noted 
that "if the above standards are adhered to . . . [then it 
will] . . . bring the Moving Pictures to a higher level in 
the Province of Ontario." These standards were sent to 
all distributors with instructions to censor films before 
submission, but this apparently had little effect because 
the Board still found it necessary to reject 67 films in 

There was very little change in the wording of the Act 
between 1927 and 1953, when a new "Theatres Act" 
was entirely recast and brought up to date. This new 
Act extended the power of the Board of Censors, and 
made provision for the establishment of licensing fees, 
and the formal approval of building and alteration 
plans for movie theatres. The Theatres Act was 
amended in 1963, and again in 1975, when the prolifer- 
ation of small storefront theatres exhibiting "sex" films 
(mainly on Toronto's Yonge Street "Strip"), caused the 
extension of control over all methods of reproducing 
moving pictures for financial gain or public viewing. 
Essentially this was aimed at 8 mm and videotape 
exhibition, and has had the desired eflfect by further 
diluting the "sexploitation" films used to lure customers 
into these establishments. 

The real problem the Board faces in the mid-1970s is 
the increasing reliance placed by movie-makers on 
explicit sex and even more explicit, and often gratui- 
tous, violence as staple ingredients for attracting 
patrons. Quite clearly, hard-core, essentially porno- 
graphic films of the type found in specialty "art houses" 
in the United States are not allowed to be publicly 
exhibited in the province; exhibitions falling under the 
obscenity sections of the Criminal Code of Canada. If 
films of this type are submitted to the Board, they are 
usually subjected to severe cutting, which, if their 
narrative continuity is of the usual skimpy quality, 
leaves very little left for the exhibitor but the provoca- 
tive title; surprisingly, in most cases this is usually 
suflicient to attract the required audience. It is inter- 
esting to note that despite the wide availability of hard- 
core product from the United States and elsewhere, in 
the year ending March 31. 1975. only eight films (out of 
930 submissions) were not approved for exhibition. 
(Two of these were 16 mm prints.) Of the 824 feature 
films (35 mm) submitted. 165 were classified as "general 
exhibition"; 321 as "Adult Entertainment"; and 332 as 
"Restricted." In all there were 134 requests for elimina- 

Reflecting the ethnic diversity in Ontario, the Board 
examined films from 26 countries. The United States, 
quite obviously, had the largest entry with 290, but 
Chinese films (mainly from Hong Kong and Taiwan) 
accounted for 1 73 submissions. These were followed by 
Italy with 98, Great Britain with 58, Greece with 54, 
Germany with 40, France with 28, and Canada with 21. 
Interestingly, of the 21 Canadian films examined in 
1974-75, 3 were approved for general exhibition; 8 for 


Adult Entertainment; and 10 released as Restricted. 
One problem is that each of these films must be 
examined within their own cultural context - how much 
violence should be allowed in a Chinese martial arts 
movie that might be shown only in Toronto, or how 
much sex in a major Hollywood production that will be 
seen widely across the province? This has always been a 
major problem for censors - how can one centrally 
located decision-making body take into account such a 
wide diversity of norms and values as is found in 



Chapter One 

1 "Corantos" was the name for sixteenth-century newspapers of 
either a single sheet or small quarto pamphlets. 

2 Gershon Legman, Love and Death (New York: Hacker Art 
Books, 1963). pp. 9. 12.24,94. 

3 Morris Ernst and William Seagle, To the Pure . . . A Study of 
Obscenity and the Censor (New York: The Viking Press, 1928). 
p. 285. 

4 Donald Thomas, A Long Time Burning: The History of 
Literary Censorship in England (London: Routledge and 
Kegan Paul. 1969), p. 5. 

5 William Wilberforce, founder of the Proclamation Society in 
1787, referred to voluntary .societies as "guardians of the 
public religion and morals". 

6 Legman, p. 19. 

7 P. M. Pickard, / Could a Tale Unfold: of Violence, Horror and 
Sensationalism in Stories for Children (London: Tavistock. 
1959), pp. 158-159. 

8 Ibid., p. 162. 

9 Ibid., p. 158. 

10 Ibid., pp. 160-161. 

11 Ibid., p. 161. 

12 Leslie Shepard, The History of Street Literature (Newton 
Abbot: David Charles, 1973), pp. 16-17. 

13 Thomas, p. 9. 

14 Shepard, pp. 45, 54. 

15 Laurence Hanson, "English Newsbooks, 1620-1644," The 
Library, Fourth Series. Vol. 18 (1958), p. 355. 

16 Frederich Seaton Siebert. Freedom of the Press in England 
1476-1 776: The Rise and Decline of Government Control 
(Urbana: The University of Illinois Press, 1965), p. 154. 

17 Marjorie Plant. The English Book Trade: An Economic History 
of the Making and Sales of Books (London: George Allen and 
Unwin. 1965), p. 48. 

18 M. A. Shaaber, "The History of the First English 
Newspaper," Studies in Philology, Vol. 29 (1932), pp. 551-587. 

19 Plant, p. 238. 

20 P. M. Handover, Printing in London from 1476 to Modern 
Times (London: George Allen and Unwin, I960), p. 113. 

21 Shepard. p. 33. 

22 Folke Dahl, "Short Title Catalogue of English Corantos and 
Newsbooks, 1620-1641," The Library, Fourth Series, Vol. XIX 
(1939), p. 46. 

23 Plant, p. 48. 

24 Handover, p. 108. 

25 Hyder E. Rollins (ed.), Cavalier and Puritan (New York: New 
York University Press, 1923), p. 43. 

26 Milton wrote his Areopagitica in 1644 which attacked the 
whole system of licensing and urged Parliament to reverse its 
decisions embodied m the Act of 1643 which provided for 
twenty-seven schoolmasters, ministers of religion, doctors, 
and others to act as licensers of the press. Areopagitica, p. 6. 

27 Thomas, p. 13. 

28 C. H. Conly, The First English Translations of the Classics 
(Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1967). 

29 Samuel R. Gardiner (ed.). The Constitutional Documents of the 
Puritan Revolution 1625-1660 (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 
1906), p. 137. 

30 Ibid., p. 139. 

31 Rollins, pp. 18-19. 

32 Thomas, p. 31. 

33 Plant, pp. 36-39. 

Chapter Two 

1 Donald Thomas. A Long Time Burning (London: Routledge 
and Kegan Paul, 1969). p. 152. 

2 Ibid., pp. 171-172. 

3 Ibid. 

4 Ibid., p. 81. 

5 Ibid., p. 113. 

6 Ibid., p. 114. 

7 J. T. Taylor, Early Opposition to the English Novel (New York: 
King's Crown Press. 1943), pp. 4-5. 

8 Ibid., p. 1. 

9 Ibid. 

10 Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel (Los Angeles: University of 
California Press, 1967), p. 39. 

1 1 Taylor, pp. 5-9. 

12 Watt, p. 54. 

13 Ibid., p. 42. 

14 Dorothy Blakey. The Minerva Press (Oxford: University Press, 
1939), pp. 41-42. 

15 Taylor, p. 38. 

16 Ibid., p. 49. There was. in fact, no Act of Parliament pas,sed to 
this end. 

17 Ibid., p. 94. 

18 Ibid., p. 29. 

19 Ibid., p. 39. 

20 Blakey, p. 58. 

21 Ibid., p. 69. 

22 Thomas, p. 181. 

23 Ibid. 

24 W. W. Watt, Shilling Shockers of the Gothic School (New 
York: Russell and Russell, 1967). 

25 J. M. S. Tompkins. The Popular Novel in England (Lincoln: 
University of Nebraska Press, 1961), pp. 222-223. 

26 P. M. Pickard, / Could a Tale Unfold: Violence, Horror and 
Sensationalism in Stories for Children (London: Tavistock. 
1959), pp. 30-31. 

27 Leslie Shepard, The History of Street Literature (Newton 
Abbot: David Charles, 1973), p. 48. 

28 R. K. Webb, The British Working Class Reader 1790-1848; 
Literacy and Social Tension (New York: Augustus M. Kellev. 
1966), pp. 15-21. 

29 Ibid., pp. 46, 105. 

30 Ibid., p. 160. 


31 Q. D. Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public (London: Chatto 
and Windus, 1932), p. 146. 

32 Webb, p. 45. 

33 Taylor, p. 101. 

34 Ian Watt, p. 128. 

35 R. Collison, The Story of Street Literature: The Forerunner of 
the Popular Press (Santa Barbara: Clio Press, 1973). 

36 Charles Hindley, The History of the Catnach Press (Detroit: 
Singing Tree Press, 1969). 

37 Ibid., p. 257. 

38 Ibid., p. 65. 

39 lanWatt, p. 42 

40 Richard D. Altick, The English Common Reader (Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 46. 

41 Thomas, pp. 117-120. 

Chapter Three 

1 Keith Hollingsworth, The Newgate Novel, 1830-1847 (Detroit: 
Wayne State University Press, 1963), p. 7. 

2 Ibid. 

3 Frank Luther Mott, Golden Multitudes (New York: McMillan, 
1947), p. 26. 

4 Ibid., p. 12. 

5 Ibid., p. 14. 

6 Hollingsworth, p. 10. 

7 R. Altick, Victorian Studies in Scarlet (New York: W. W. 
Norton and Co., 1970), p. 280. 

8 Donald Thomas, A Long Time Burning (London: Routledge 
and Kegan Paul 1969), pp. 225-226. 

9 Ibid., p. 215. 

10 Ibid., p. 262. 

1 1 M. Ernst and W. Seagle, To The Pure . . . A Study of Obscenity 
and the Censor (New York: The Viking Press, 1928). 

12 Thomas, p. 264. 

13 Louis James, Fiction for the Working Man (London: Oxford 
University Press, 1963), p. 2. 

14 Ibid., p. 3. 

15 Ibid. 

16 Ibid., p. 115. 

17 Ibid., p. 118. 

18 Hollingsworth, p. 66. 

19 Ibid., p. 81. 

20 Ibid., p. 93. 

21 Ibid., p. 125. 

22 Ibid., p. 127. 

23 Ibid., p. 140. 

24 Ibid., p. 145. 

25 Ibid., p. 147. 

26 Altick, p. 292. 

27 Ibid., pp. 292-300. 

28 James, p. 27. 

29 Ibid., p. 41. 

30 Margaret Dalziel. Popular Fiction a Hundred Years Ago 
(London: Cohen and West, 1957), p. 75. 

31 Ibid., p. 46. 

32 Ibid., p. 20. 

33 R. Altick, The English Common Reader (Ch\cdigo: University 
of Chicago Pres.s, 1957), p. 290. 

34 Ibid., p. 292. 

35 Dalziel, p. 75. 

36 Amy Cruse, The Victorians and Their Reading (Boston: 
Houghton Mifflin, 1962), p. 124. 

37 R. K. Webb, The British Working Class Reader 1790-1848 
Literacy and Social Tension (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 
1966), p. 73. 

38 Ibid. 

39 Hollingsworth, p. 219. 

40 James, p. 44. 

41 Dalziel, p. 50. 

42 J. J. Tobias, Crime and Industrial Society in the Nineteenth 
Century (New York: Schocken Books, 1967). p. 252. 

43 Ibid., pp. 251-252, 31,32, 47. 

44 Hollingsworth, pp. 223-224. 

45 Dalziel, p. 75. 

46 J. H. S. Tompkins, The Popular Novel in England (Lincoln: 
University of Nebraska Press, 1961), pp. 59, 60, 61, 221. 

47 Altick, Victorian Studies in Scarlet p. 300. 

48 W. C. Phillips, Sensation Novelists (New York: Russel and 
Russel, 1962), p. 24. 

49 Ernst and Seagle, p. 89. 

50 Dalziel, pp. 79-83. 

51 Q. D. Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public (London: Chatto 
and Windus, 1932), p. 162. 

Chapter Four 

1 Frank Luther Mott, American Journalism (New York: 
MacMillan, 1962), p. 43. 

2 Ibid., p. 59. 

3 Ibid., p. 97. 

4 Ibid., p. 104. 

5 Ibid., p. 108. 

6 Ibid., p. 128. 

7 Ibid., pp. 159, 167. 

8 Ibid., p. 22. 

9 Ibid., p. 233. 

10 Ibid., p. 237. 

11 Ibid., p. 270. 

12 Ibid., p. 271. 

13 Ibid. 

14 Ibid., p. 309. 

15 Ibid., p. 308. 

16 Ibid., p. 386. 

17 Ibid., pp. 41 1-428. 

18 Ibid., p. 435. 


19 Ibid., p. 441. 

20 Ibid., p. 481. 

21 Ibid., p. 512. 

22 Ibid., p. 513. 

23 Ibid. 

24 Ibid., pp. 527-533. 

25 Sydney Kobre, The Yellow Press and Gilded Age Journalism 
(Tallahassee. Florida: Florida State University Press, 1964), 
p. 73. 

26 Ibid., p. 74. 

27 Kobre, p. 74. 

28 Mott, p. 522. 

29 Ibid., p. 541. 

30 Ibid. 

31 Ibid., p. 605. 

32 John Tebbel, The Compact History of the American Newspaper, 
revised edition (New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1969), pp. 

33 Ibid., pp. 222-223. 

34 Mott, p. 668. 

35 Ibid., p. 670. 

36 Ibid. 

37 Ibid., p. 671. 

38 Ibid. 

39 ipi Research Services, Press Councils and Press Codes, Fourth 
Edition (Zurich: IPI, 1966), p. 134. 

40 Mott, p. 695. 

41 Ibid., p. 672. 

42 Ibid., pp. 707. 742. 

43 Ibid., p. 623. 

44 Ibid., pp. 623-624. 

45 Ibid., p. 624. 

46 Ibid., p. 761. 

47 Ibid., pp. 761-762. 

48 Ibid., pp. 724. For example, in 1931 the Supreme Court ruled 
the Minnesota "Gag Law" unconstitutional. This law allowed 
state officials to suppress "malicious, scandalous, and 
defamatory" publications as public nuisances. Chief Justice 
Hughes stated that the United States libel laws were adequate 
for redressing press abuses. This is the same as the ruling of 
the Canadian Supreme Court decision on Aberhart's "Gag 
Law" in 1936. (See page 134). 

49 Terry Ann Knopf, "Sniping - a new pattern of violence?" in 
Stanley Cohen and Jack Young (eds.). The Manufacture of 
News, (London: Constable. 1973), pp. 210-225. 

50 Knopf, p. 222. 

51 F. James Davis, "Crime in Colorado Newspapers," in Stanley 
Cohen and Jack Young (eds.), The Manufacture of News, pp. 

52 Herbert A. Otto, "Sex and Violence on the American 
Newsstand," in Otto N. Larsen, Violence and the Mass Media 
(New York: Harper and Row. 1968). 

53 Ibid., p. 89. 

54 Current French-Canadian tabloids such as Montreal Matin 
and Le Petit Journal give heavy emphasis to themes of 
violence and sex. For example, the front page story of the 
June 6-12, 1976 edition of Le Petit Journal was "Le Maniaque 
Sexuel au Chapeau de Peche A Deja Fait 60 Victimes," and in 
Catnach style contained a sketch of the likeness of the 
criminal and pictures of his victims and baffled police officials. 

55 D. B. Davis, Homicide in American Fiction 1 798-1860 (New 
York: Cornell University Press, 1957), pp. vii-viii. 

56 Henry Irving Dodge, "The Continued Story," The New York 
Times, Jan. 30, 1921, as reproduced in David Manning White 
(ed.). Popular Culture (New York: Arno Press, 1975), p. 5. 

57 Kenneth Lynn, "Violence in American Literature and Folk 
Lore," in Hugh Davis Graham and Ted Robert Gurr (eds.), A 
History of Violence in America (New York: Bantam Books, 
1969), pp. 226-242. 

58 Ibid., p. 227. 

59 Dodge, p. 5. 

60 Brian Denis, Murderers and other Friendly People (New York: 
McGraw-Hill, 1973). p. 91. 

61 Davis, pp. 70-82. 

62 Ibid., p. 82. 

63 Ibid., p. 87. 

64 Ibid., p. 120. 

65 Gershon Legman, Love and Death (New York: Hacker Art 
Books, 1963), p. 10. 

66 Ibid., pp. 10-15. 

67 Davis, p. 151. 

68 Ibid., p. 148. 

69 Ibid., p. 173. 

70 Ibid., p. 164. 

71 Ibid., p. 161. 

72 Ibid., p. 245. 

73 Ibid., p. 272. 

74 Ibid., p. 302. 

75 Ibid., p. 306. 

76 Ibid., p. 223. 

77 See S. J. Woolf, "A Writer of Thrillers Talks of Crime," The 
New York Times, Nov. 10, 1929; Margery Allingham, 
"Mysterious Fun for Millions of Innocent Escapists," The 
New York Times, June 4, 1950; "Ian Fleming Created James 
Bond," The New York Times, Aug. 13. 1964; Ellery Queen 
(pseud.), "Bars Real Murder in Murder Stories," The New 
York Times, Jan. 16, 1933. all as reproduced in David 
Manning White, Popular Culture (New York: 1975). 

78 Both passages are taken from Margaret Dalziel, Popular 
Fiction A Hundred Years Ago (London: Cohen & West, 1957), 
p. 181. The first is from The Big Kill and the second from Kiss 
Me Deadly, both from Spillane. 

79 Jerry Palmer, "Mickey Spillane: a reading," in Stanley Cohen 
and Jack Young (eds.), The Manufacture of News, pp. 308, 309, 

80 President Kennedy was a professed fan of Ian Fleming's 
James Bond novels and Prince Philip in Britain admitted one 
of his favourites was detective fiction. See "Ian Fleming 
Created James Bond." 


81 Queen, as reproduced in David Manning White, Popular 
Culture, p. 29. 

82 Mary Noel, Villains Galore, The Heyday of the Popular Story 
Weekly (New York: MacMillan Co.. 1954), p. 28. 

83 Ibid., p. 19. 

84 Ibid., p. 32-39. 

85 Ibid., p. 45. 

86 Ibid., p. 102. 

87 Tony Goldestone, The Pulps, Fifty Years of American Popular 
Culture (New York: Chelsea House, 1970). 

88 Noel, p. 243. 

89 Noel, pp. 157-158. 

90 Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines 
1885-1905, Vol. 4 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 
1957), pp. 1 12-119. The dime novel was called "degeneracy 

91 Noel, pp. 300-302. 

92 Legman, pp. 18-19. Legman notes that the section of the New 
York Penal Law which had once outlawed the "publication of 
pictures or stories of deeds of bloodshed, lust or crime" was 
negated by the Supreme Court in 1948. See the following 
section, Comstockery in America. 

93 Robert Bremner (ed.) Traps for the Young by Anthony 
Comstock (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), 
p. vii. 

94 Ibid., p. xi. 

95 Anthony Comstock, Frauds £x/?05e^ (Montclair, New Jersey: 
Peterson Smith, 1969), chapters 23-30. 

96 Bremner, p. xxiii. 

97 Comstock, p. 437. 

98 Ibid., p. 438. 

99 Ibid., p. 439. 

100 Morris Ernst and William Seagle, To The Pure . . . A Study of 
Obscenity and the Censor (New York: The Viking Press. 1928), 

101 Ibid., pp. 297-302. 

Chapter Five 

1 H. P. Gundy. Early Printers and Printing in the Canadas, 
(Toronto: Bibliographical Society of Canada, 1964). Gundy 
considers the period from 1752 to 1857 as a whole, whereas 
Kesterton divides this period at 1807. In the second part, there 
is much less censorship imposed by the colonial government 
and considerably less subservience on the part of the press. It 
is examples primarily from 1807 and onward that Gundy cites 
to illustrate the remaikable degree of pioneer press freedom. 

2 W. H. Kesterton. A History of Journalism in Canada (Toronto: 
McClelland and Stewart, 1967), see note above. 

3 Bertha Bassam. The First Printers and Newspapers in Canada, 
University of Toronto School of Library Science Monograph 
Series in Librarianship. No. 1 (Toronto: University of 
Toronto Press, 1968), p. 3. 

4 Ibid., p. 6. 

5 Ibid. 

6 Ibid., p. 5; Kesterton, p. 12. Kesterton considers Howe's 
victory in the courts as the prototype of the second period of 

Canadian journalism ( 1 807- 1 857). illustrating the growing 
independence of the Canadian press. 

7 Gundy, pp. 15-16. 

8 Ibid., p. 30. 

9 Ibid., p. 19. 

10 Ibid., p. 30. 

1 1 Bassam, p. 9. 

12 Gundy, p. 31. 

13 The Canadian Press Association, A History of Canadian 
Journalism 1859-1908 {Toronlo: Canadian Press Association, 
1908), p. 164. 

14 Kesterton, p. 16. 

15 Ibid., pp. 11-23. 

16 Ibid., p. 23. 

17 The Canadian Press Association, p. 176. 

18 Arthur H. U. Coloquhon, "A Century of Canadian 
Magazines," Canadian Magazine, Vol. 17 (1901), pp. 141-149. 

19 Frederic Robson, "Canadian Journalism." Canadian 
Magazine, Vol. 32 (1909). pp. 434-440. p. 435. 

20 Ibid., p. 439. 

21 Kesterton, p. 48. 

22 Ibid., p. 50. 

23 Ibid., p. 54. 

24 Ibid., p. 56. 

25 W. A. Craick, A History of Canadian Journalism 11, The Last 
Years of the Canadian Press Association 1908-1919 With a 
Continuing Record of the Canadian Daily Newspaper Publishers' 
Association 1919-1959 (Toronto: Ontario Publishing Co., 
1959), p. 56. 

26 Ibid., p. 98. 

27 Kesterton, p. 61. 

28 Ibid., p. 76. 

29 Craick, p. 38. 

30 Ibid., p. 58. 

31 Robert Fulford, "The Press in the Community," in D. L. B. 
Hamlin (ed.). The Press and the Public, The Canadian Insutute 
on Public Affairs Eighth Winter Conference (Toronto: 
University of Toronto Press, 1962). pp. 23-34. 

32 Hamlin, p. 3. 

33 Kesterton, p. 182. 

34 Ibid., p. 194. 

35 Ibid., pp. 184-185. 

36 Ibid., p. 199. 

37 Ibid., p. 202. 

38 Stuart Keate, "Pressures on the Press," in Hamlin (ed.). 77i^ 
Press and the Public, p. 17. 

39 Ibid., p. 18. 

40 M. E. Nichols, The Story of the Canadian Press (Toronto: 
Ryerson Press. 1948), p' 221. 

41 Kesterton, p. 231. 

42 Ibid., p. 235. 

43 Ibid., p. 236. 


44 Ibid. 

45 Ibid., p. 243. 

46 Nichols, p. 250. 

47 Ibid., p. 256. 

48 In 1919 The Canadian Press Association split up into more 
specialized groups according to type of publication and 
specialized function within the industry. The Canadian Daily 
Newspaper Publishers' Association was one group emerging 
from the split but retained most of the basic functions of the 
original cpa within the sphere of the daily newspaper industry. 

49 Ibid., p. 240. 

50 Nicholas, p. 251. 

51 Norman Smith, "Press/people, freedom," in Dick Macdonald 
(ed.). The Media Game (Montreal: Content Publishing, 1972), 
pp. 209-210. 

52 Margaret Atwood, Survival, A Thematic Guide to Canadian 
Literature (Toronto: Anansi, 1972), p. 55. 

53 Ibid., p. 54. 

54 Ibid., pp. 29, 30. 

55 David Bakan, Slaughter of the Innocents. A Study of the 
Battered Child Phenomenon (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), 
p. 72. 

56 Atwood, p. 33. 

57 Ibid., pp. 217-218. 

Chapter Six 

1 Edward C. Caldwell, "Censorship of Radio Programs," 
Journal of Radio Law, Vol, I No. 3, October 1931, p. 443. 

2 W. G. Ogburn and S. C. Gilfillan, "The influence of invention 
and discovery," in Recent Social Trends, (New York: 
McGraw-Hill, 1934), pp. 152-7. 

3 B. K. Sandwell, "Radio free speech: the pitches are limited," 
Saturday Night, January 19, 1952. Vol. 67. pp. 4-5. 

4 ether: "the air [rare]" according to Webster's New Twentieth 
Century Dictionary (C\e\e\and: World Publishing Co., 1968), 
p. 627, but actually quite acceptable in the radio literature of 
yore (and to Oxford). 

5 Alvin Harlow, Old Wires and New Waves (New York: Amo 
Press, 1971 [1936]), p. 445. 

6 Ibid., p. 449. 

7 The U.S., however, did not adopt this Morse distress signal 
until 1912, after the Titanic disaster. 

8 Erik Barnouw, A Tower in Babel (New York: Oxford 
University Press, 1966 A History of Broadcasting in the 
United States, Vol. I), pp. 27-28. 

9 Ibid., p. 29. 

10 Harlow, pp. 468-9. 

11 Ibid., p. 470. 

12 The "widespread public demand" cited by Harrison B. 
Summers, Radio Censorship (New York: Arno Press, 1971 
[1939]), p. 53 is described by Barnouw as pressure from the 
armed forces, specifically the navy, A Tower in Babel, p. 31. 

13 Barnouw, pp. 32-33. 

14 4-5 E. VII., C. 49. An Act to provide for the regulation of 
wireless telegraphy in Canada. 

15 Or a reflection of totalitarian public manipulation, depending 
upon one's consciousness. 

16 Harlow, p. 469. Of course, to extend this idea, one would have 
to believe in the collective public spirits of the U.K. and 

17 Asa Briggs, The Birth of Broadcasting (London: Oxford 
University Press, 1961, A History of Broadcasting in the 
United Kingdom. Vol. I), p. 39. 

18 Memorandum to Edward J. Nally, Vice-President and 
General Manager. Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of 
America. September 30. 1915. (Reproduced in Looking Ahead 
the papers of David Sarnoff (New York: McGraw Hill. 1968), 
pp. 31-33. 

19 Peter Goldmark, "Communication and the Community," 
Scientific American, September. 1972. pp. 143-150; Edwin 
Parker and Donald Dunn. "Information technology: its social 
polenu&l" Science, 176:1392, June 30. 1972. 

20 Robert Edward Davis. "Response to Innovation: a study of 
popular argument about new mass media," Ph.D. dissertation 
(Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa, 1965), pp. 28-30. 

21 Barnouw, p. 79; Paul Schubert, The Electric Word (New 
York: Arno Press, 1971 [1928]), p. 238. 

22 Llewellyn White, The American Radio (New York: Arno 
Press, 1971 [1947]), pp. 27-28. 

23 Ibid., p. 29. Whether AT&T performed a public service by 
instituting commercial sponsorship has yet to be decided. 

24 Quoted in Frank W. Peers, The Politics of Canadian 
Broadcasting 1920-1951 (Toronto: University of Toronto 
Press, 1969), p. 11. 

25 Barnouw, pp. 172-178. 

26 Ibid., p. 196. 

27 Ibid., pp. 157-8. 

28 Proceedings of the Fourth National Radio Conference [U.S.], 
cited in Caldwell, pp. 468-9. 

29 Barnouw, p. 195. 

30 Caldwell, p. 471. 

31 Writing in 1929, Robert E. Sherwood claimed the radio 
audience had been "glutted" by music of varying quahty. He 
cites the strain placed on the listener's imagination as the 
reason for the non-.success of radio drama. "Beyond the 
idi\kies," Scribner's Magazine, July 1929, Vol. 86, No. 1, pp. 1-8. 

32 Barnouw, pp. 230-1. 

33 Frederick Lewis Allen. Only Yesterday (New York: Harper, 
1951). pp. 295-320. 

34 Barnouw, p. 237. 

35 Vita Lauter and Joseph H. Friend. "Radio and the 
censors."Foruw, December 1931, pp. 359-66. 

36 KFKB Broadcasting Ass'n, Inc. v Fed. Radio Comm., 47F. 2d. 
670(App. D.C. 1931). 

37 Barnouw. pp. 258-9. 

38 "Radio regulation and freedom of the air." Harvard Law 
Review, Vol. 54. No. 6. April 1941, p. 1222. 

39 Paul M. Segal, "Recent trends in censorship of radio 
broadcast programs," Rocky Mountain Law Review, Vol. 20, 
No. 4. June 1948. p. 371. 

40 "Radio program controls: a network of inadequacy." The 
Yale Law Journal. Vol. 57, No. 2, December 1947, p. 280. 


41 Stockton HelfTrich, "The radio and television codes and the 

public interesl" Journal of Broadcasting, Vol. XIV, No. 3, 
Summer 1970, p. 267. 

42 The New York Times, August 15, 1934, 12:2; The New York. 
Times, August 23, 1934, 13:5. In 1945, upset with radio's 
status quo, the Michigan Catholic actually suggested that the 
Legion of Decency extend its influence beyond motion 
pictures to radio. White, pp. 123-4. 

43 Robert Shaw, "Forms of censorship," Hollywood Quarterly, 
Vol.1, 1445-6, pp. 199-210. 

44 Briggs, p. 49. 

45 Ibid., pp. 52-3. 

46 Ibid. 

47 Ibid., p. 97. 

48 Manchester Guardian, August 15, 1922 (cited in Briggs, p. 91). 

49 Briggs, p. 173, The latter attitude was also prevalent in the 
U.S. and Canada. 

50 Ibid., pp. 235-239. 

51 Ibid., pp. 269-270. 

52 Ibid., pp. 212-275. 

53 John William Albig, "The content of radio programs 1925- 
1938," Social Forces, V. 16, March 1938, pp. 338-349. 

54 Briggs, p. 360. 

55 Report of the Broadcasting [Crawford] Committee 1925 
(Cmd. 2599, London, 1926) para. 16 (quoted in Peers, p. 7). 

56 Briggs, pp. 358-9. Caution nonetheless continued to be 
exercised regarding controversy owing to the influence of 
British political parties and sensitivity regarding international 
aff'airs after 1936. 

57 Val Gielgud. British Radio Drama, 1922-1956 (London: 
Harrap, 1957), pp. 163-179. Gielgud cites four "occasions of 
off"ence" which caused debate in Britain over the efficacy of 
broadcast freedom . . . because of their results he terms them 
"milestones of progress." 

58 Peers, p. 20ff". 

59 Ibid., pp. 27-29. 

60 E. Austin Weir, The Struggle for National Broadcasting in 
Canada, (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1965), pp. 14-17. 
Debate continues whether the incentive for networking radio 
in Canada was one of nationalistic fervour, or defensive anti- 

61 Peers, p. 26. 

62 House of Commons, Z)e6ar«, April 12, 1928, pp. 1951-2. 

63 Canada Gazette, 62 (1929). p. 2306. 

64 Weir, p. 122. 

65 Ibid., p. 125. 

66 Ibid., p. 131. 

67 The New York Times, February 21, 1932, III 6:4. 

68 Ibid. 

69 Canadian Association of Broadcasters, "A Statement of 
Policy on Freedom of Broadcast Publication." brief to Royal 
Commission on Broadcasting (Fowler) 1956. p. 2. 

70 Weir. pp. 188-189; House of Commons, Debates, April 16. 
1935. p. 2778ff'. 

71 Weir. p. 188. 

72 Ibid., pp. 149-151. 

73 Weir, pp. 187-8. 

74 Ibid., pp. 200-2. 

75 R. B. Tolbridge. "Private radio's wedge" Canadian Forum. 
July 1946, V. 26, No. 306. pp. 82-84. 

76 J. E. Hodgetts, "Administration and politics: the case of the 
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation." Canadian Journal of 
Economics and Political Science, Vol. 125. No. 4, November 
1946, p. 465. 

77 Charles Bowman, "Canadian broadcasting," Queen's 
Quarterly, Vol. 44. No. 4. Winter 1937-8. pp. 507-8. 

78 Peers, pp. 259-260. 

79 Weir. pp. 262-267. 

80 William F. Swindler. "Wartime news control in Canada," 
Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 6, Fall, 1942. pp. 444-449. W. 
H. Kesterton, A History of Journalism in Canada (Toronto: 
McClelland and Stewart. 1967). pp. 201-2. 

81 Asa Briggs. Golden Age of Wireless (London: Oxford 
University Press 1965). pp. 650-4. 

82 Asa Briggs. The War of IVords (London: Oxford University 
Press 1970). p. 40. 

83 Erik Barnouw. The Golden Web (New York: Oxford 
University Press. 1968). p. 156. 

84 Don Jamieson. The Troubled Air (Fredencton: Brunswick 
Press. 1966). 

85 "Radio panic not new." Saturday Night, Nov. 5, 1938, p. I. 

86 Peter Odegard. The American Public Mind (New York: 
Columbia University Press. 1930), p. 224. 

87 See n. 31. above. 

88 Barnouw. The Golden Web, p. 6. 

89 Ruth Palter. "Radio's attraction for housewives." Hollywood 
Quarterly, Vol. 3, 1948, pp. 248-257. 

90 The New York Times, Feb. 10, 1924, reproduced in David 
Manning White, Popular Culture (New York: New York 
Times, 1975), p. 211. 

91 Sydney Head, Broadcasting in America (Boston: Houghton- 
Mifflin 1972), p. 167. 

92 Alden Nowlan, "Ah! That golden age of radio drama!" 
Atlantic Advocate, April 1970. p. 75. 

93 Gershon Legman. Love and Death (New York: Hacker Art 
Books. 1963 [1949]). p. 93. Erik Barnouw. Handbook of Radio 
Writing {Boston: Little. Brown. 1939). pp. 135-6. 187. 

94 Jim Harmon. The Great Radio Heroes (Garden City. New 
Jersey: Doubleday. 1967). p. 26. 

95 Ibid., p. 37. 

96 Irving Settel. A Pictorial History of Radio (New York: Grosset 
and Dunlap. 1967 [I960]), p. 68. Arthur Mann. "The 
Children's Hour of Crime," Scribner's Magazine, Vol. 93. No. 
5. May 1933. p. 313. In H. P. Longstalfs study, mothers 
reported that they frequently bought the advertised products 
children asked for. and continue to buy them if the children 
ate or enjoyed them. Longstafl" noted the success of this 
advertising method, but reported that 38.4 per cent of mothers 
studied had an unfavourable attitude to this commercial form 
(37 per cent favourable. 23.4 per cent neutral). These results 
caused him to urge program and commercial improvement. 


"Mother's Opinions of children's radio programs," Journal of 
Applied Psychology, June 1937, V. 21, pp. 265-79. 

97 Harmon, pp. 65-66. 

98 Ibid., p. 41. 

99 Nowlan, p. 76. 

100 Brock Brower, "A lament for old-time radio," in Settel, p. 12. 

101 Paul Lazarsfeld, Patricia L. Kendall, Radio Listening in 
America (New York: Prentice Hall, 1948), p. 22. 

102 Legman, p. 51. 

103 Robert J. Landry, "Wanted: radio critics," Public Opinion 
Quarterly, Vol. 4, Dec. 1940, pp. 620-9. 

104 Cited in Llewellyn White, The American Radio (New York: 
Arno Press, 1971 [1947]), p. 123. 

105 Laurence Laurent, "A critic looks at reviewing," Journal of 
Broadcasting 11: 16, Winter 1966-67. 

106 "The children's hour," The Nation, Vol. 136, No. 3535, p. 362, 
April 15, 1933. It is interesting to note that complaints 
sometimes alluded to an inability to retire a child "on 
schedule" (Mann, p. 313). Perhaps parental concern, in some 
cases, stemmed more from decreasing privacy than from any 
ill effect their offspring suffered. 

107 Allen Raymond, "Static ahead!" New Outlook, July 1933, 
p. 20. 

108 Davis, p. 268. 

109 Ibid., p. 249. 

1 10 Robert J. Landry, This Fascinating Radio Business (New 
York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1946), p. 147ff. 

111 "A new deal for youth," New York Times, September 10, 
1933, X, 7:5. 

1 12 William Shriver, "Radio and television," Catholic World, 
No. 1028, Vol. 172, Nov. 1950, pp. 144-6. 

1 13 Lanfranco Rasponi, "Dr. Watson Speaks Up," The New York 
Times, Oct. 6, 1940, reproduced in David Manning White, 
Popular Culture p. 247. 

1 14 "Hand that rocks cradle shakes a warning finger at radio," 
Newsweek, Vol. 6, July 13, 1935, p. 29; The New York Times, 
May 14, 1935, 10:3. 

1 15 "Wanted: shows that won't upset young digestions," 
Newsweek, Vol. 6, July 6, 1935, p. 26. 

1 16 "Hand that rocks cradle shakes a warning finger at radio," 
Newsweek, p. 29. 

117 Davis, p. 33. 

1 18 Maurice E. Shelby, Jr., "The possible influence of criticism on 
network radio programming for children," Journal of 
Broadcasting, Spring 1970, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 222-3. 

1 19 "Radio gore criticized for making Children's Hour a pause 
that depresses," Newsweek, Vol. 10, November 8, 1937, p. 26. 

120 Variety, March 8, 1939, p. 40. 

121 "New Code for the broadcasting industry," The New York 
Times, i\x\y 12, 1939,7:1. 

122 Shelby, p. 221. In 1946, 14 hours per week were solely devoted 
to this genre. 

123 Davis, p. 268. 

124 Albert N. Williams, "And a little child shall lead them," 
Saturday Review, February 8. 1947, pp. Id-ll . 

125 L. Frankel, "In one ear," Nation, April 26, 1947, Vol. 164, No. 
17, p. 481. 

126 Gilbert Seldes, The Great Audience (New York: Viking Press, 
1950), p. 128. 

127 Williams, pp. 26-7, Landry, This Fascinating Radio Business, 
p. 154. 

128 Frederick Elkin, "Censorship and pressure groups," Phylon, 
Spring 1960, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 71-80. 

129 Poyntz Tyler, Television and Radio (New York: H. W. Wilson, 
1961), p. 8. 

130 The Globe and Mail, Nov. 1, 1937, p. 1,6. Interestingly, a 
similiar panic reaction occurred in Calgary as a result of a 
1944 commercial for the Victory Loan program. For two and 
a half hours the city was filled with consternation after 
hearing a broadcast which had involved a simulated German 
landing in Canada, as in the Wells/Welles broadcast, the 
"simulation" was not evident to all listeners and a panic 
ensued. Station cfcn later apologized, claiming it had not 
written the commercial; no official action was taken. Canada 
Radio Broadcasting Committee, Minutes and Proceedings, No. 
6, May 10, 1944. 

131 Dorothy Thompson, "Lessons from the Welles broadcast," 
Saturday Night, Nov. 12, 1938, V. 54, p. 10. 

132 Lazarsfeld and Kendall, p. 52. 

133 Williams, pp. 26-27. 

134 Davis,p. 269, Shelby, p. 217. 

1 35 Norman Cousins, "Time Trap," Saturday Review, December 
24, 1949, p. 20. 

136 Cited in Davis, p. 247. 

137 Shelby, p. 226. 

1 38 Sidonie Matsner Gruenberg, "Radio and the child," Annals of 
the American Academy of Political and Social Science, January 
1935, pp. 123-134. 

1 39 Josette Frank, Comics, Radio, Movies - and Children, 
Washington Public Affairs Committee, p. 15. 

140 A condensed version of Edward Ricciuti's dissertation done at 
Fordham University appears as "Children and radio: a study 
of listeners and non-listeners to various types of radio 
programs in terms of selected ability, attitude and behaviour 
measures." Genetic Psychology Monographs, 1951, Vol. 44, pp. 

141 Azriel Eisenberg, Children and Radio Programs (New York: 
Columbia University Press, 1936). 

142 M. I. Preston, "Children's reactions to movie horrors and 
radio crime," Journal of Pediatrics, 1941, V. 19, pp. 147-168. 

143 Florence Heisler, "A comparison between those elementary 
school children who attend moving pictures, read comic 
books, and listen to serial radio programs to an excess with 
those who indulge in these activities seldom or not at all." 
Journal of Educational Research. 1948, Vol. 42, pp. 182-190. 

144 Jo.sette Frank, "Chills and thrills in radio movies and comics," 
Child Study, Vol. 25. Spnng 1948, pp. 42-48. 

145 J. F. Angus (ed.), Canada and her Great Neighbour (Toronto: 
The Ryerson Press, 1938), pp. 144-5. 

146 Philip Spencer, "We went to the people," The Canadian 
Forum, Vol. 21, April 1941, pp. 22-24. 

147 Angus, p. 145. 


148 Graham Spry, "Radio broadcasting and aspects of Canadian- 
American relations," in W. W. McLaren et al.. Conference on 
Canadian-American Affairs, Proceedings, (New York: Ginn 
and Company, 1936), p. 106. 

149 Lazarsfeld and Kendall, p. 22. This preoccupation with crime 
and adventure via the radio was not reflected in the American 
reading habits of the 1930s. Douglas Waples, People and Print 
(Chicago: University of Chicago, 1938). 

150 Angus, pp. 145-6. A survey of rural school children in 
Manitoba, few of whom had ever visited the U.S. were very 
wary of the 'crime,' 'murder,' 'kidnapping,' 'inefficient police' 
which they viewed as over-abundant in America - whether 
this impression was derived from the radio or sensational 
press is not clearly explained, pp. 379-380. 

151 Ibid., pp. 124-410. 

152 The Globe and Mail, Mar. 10, 1944, p. 10. 

153 1 Edw VIII, Chap. 24, S22 (c). 

154 Canada, Radio Broadcasting Committee, Minutes and 
Proceedings, No. 3, April 19. 1944, p. 158. 

155 The New York Times, Dec. 31, 1944, II, 7:5. 

156 House of Commons, Debates, April 1,2, 1953-4, Vol. IV, 
p. 3591, 3613. 

157 Madeline Edmondson and David Rounds, The Soaps, (New 
York: Stein and Day, 1973), p. 15. 

158 Reported in Landry, This Fascinating Radio Business, p. 287. 

159 W. Lloyd Warner and WiUiam E. Henry, "The radio daytime 
serial: a symbolic analysis," Genetic Psychology Monographs, 
1948, V. 37, pp. 3-71 ; Herta Herzog, "On borrowed 
experience; an analysis of Hstening to daytime sketches," 
Studies in the Philosophy of Social Science, 1941, Vol. 9, No. 1, 
pp. 65-94; Irving Bacheller, "The Vulgarity of Frivolity," 
World Wide, May 21, 1932, Vol. 32, No. 21, p. 756. 

160 Edmondson, p. 234. 

161 "Radio 'love' held vital to profits," The New York Times, Mar. 
16, 1940, reproduced in David Manning White, Popular 
Culture, p. 242. 

162 Edmondson, pp. 234-5. 

163 Ibid., pp. 240-5. 

164 Frankel, p.481. 

165 Orrin E. Dunlop Jr. "Spinning endless yarns," The New York 
Times, Feb. 1 1, 1940, reproduced in David Manning White, 
Popular Culture, p. 241. 

166 Paul Lazarsfeld, What We Really Know About Daytime Serials 
(New York: Columbia Broadcasting System, 1942). 

167 Frankel, p. 481. 

168 Lazarsfeld, What We Really Know About Daytime Serials, n.p. 

169 John Hutchins, "Are soap operas only suds?" The New York 
Times. March 28, 1943, as reproduced in David Manning 
White, Popular Culture, pp. 250-1. 

170 Jack Gould, "Time for a halt, radio and TV carnage defies all 
reason," The New York Times, July 16, 1950, as reproduced in 
David Manning White, p. 260. 

Chapter Seven 

1 John E. Twomey, "New Forms of Social Control over Mass 
Media Content," pp. 174-182 in Otto N. Larsen (ed.). Violence 

and the Mass Media (New York: Harper and Row, 1968), p 

2 Hayden Weller, "The First Comic Book." Journal of 
Educational Sociology, Vol. 18, No. 4, Dec. 1944. p. 195. The 
first comic book was a collection of "Mutt and Jefl"' strips and 
appeared in 191 1. 

3 P.M. Pickard. / Could A Tale Unfold: Violence, Horror and 
Sensationalism in Stories for Children (London: Tavistock, 
1959), pp. 101, 107. 

4 James Steranko, The Steranko History of the Comics 
(Wyomissing. Penn.: Supergraphics. 1972). p. 5. 

5 Bruce D. Hutchison, "Comic Strip Violence. 191 1-1966." 
Journalism Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 2, Summer 1969. pp. 358- 

6 Bill Stephenson, "Remember When the Comics were Funny?" 
Maclean's, Vol. 69, Dec. 22. 1956, p. 1 1. 

7 Alan Gowans, The Unchanging Arts, New Forms for The 
Traditional Functions of Art in Society (Philadelphia: J.B. 
Lippincott, 1971), p. 283. 

8 Ibid., p. 266. 

9 Aaron Berkman, "Sociology of the Comic Strip," American 
Spectator, Vol. 4, June 1936. pp. 52-53. 

10 Stephenson, p. 44. 

1 1 Les Daniels. Comix: A History of Comic Books in America 
(New York: E.P. Dutton and' Co., 1971), p. 6. 

12 George Perry and Alan Aldridge. 77ie Penguin Book of Comics 
(Penguin, 1971), p. 107. 

13 Gilbert Seldes. The Seven Lively Arts (New York: Sagamore 
Press. 1924). p. 200. 

14 Perry and Aldridge. p. 16. 

15 Hutchinson, p. 363. 

16 Perry and Aldridge. p. 170. 

17 Coulton Waugh. The Cow/cs (New York: Macmillan. 1947). 
p. 344. 

18 Ibid., p. 343. 

19 Ibid., p. 344. 

20 Daniels, p. ix. 

21 Ibid., p. 53. 

22 Larsen, pp. 214-226. Larsen has reprinted excerpts from 
William Gaines's testimony before the Kefauver Senate 
committee which reveal that, although many of his comic 
books were of this wholesome nature, he was also a pnme 
offender. Gaines originated the "horror" comic book and 
issued many more of these at a dime than his Picture Stories 
series which sold at 65C per issue. 

23 It is surprising that Lord Northcliffe. with his moral 
aspirations in the field of children's literature, was also the 
founder of the London Daily Mirror, one of the most 
sensational and controversial British tabloids. 

24 Perry and Aldridge. p. 47. 

25 Pickard. pp. 98-101. 

26 Michael Hirsh and Patrick Laubert, The Great Canadian 
Comic Books (Toronto: Peter Martin Associates Ltd.. 1971), 
p. 15. 

27 Ibid. 


28 Marilyn Graalfs, "Violence in Comic Books," in Larsen, 
pp. 93-96. 

29 Harvey Zorbaugh, "The Comics, where they stand," Journal 
of Educational Sociology. Vol. 18, No. 4, Dec. 1944, pp. 196- 

In 1933, the estimated reading public according to Market 
Research Co. of America was 70,000,000. The breakdown by 
sex and by age is as follows: Males: Of males 6-1 1 yrs, 95 per 
cent; 12-17 yrs, 87 per cent: 18-30 yrs, 41 per cent: over 31 yrs, 
16 per cent: Females: Of females 6-1 1 yrs, 91 percent: 12-17 
yrs. 81 per cent: 18-30 yrs, 28 per cent; and over 31 yrs, 10 per 
cent, read comic books regularly. To be classified a regular 
reader for children means 12-13 comic books read per month 
and for adults, 6-8 comic books per month. Comic Books 
outsell the Saturday Evening Post and Reader's Digest 
combined, at a ratio of 10: 1 (p. 197-198). 

30 Sterling North, "Editorial," Chicago Daily News. May 8, 1949, 
p. 21, col. 4. 

3 1 Fredric Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent (New York: 
Rinehart, 1953), pp. 10. 243, 164, 1 18. 

32 Wertham said that the average child spent two to three hours 
each day reading comic books, a statement he was unable to 

33 Wertham, p. 118. 

34 Ibid., p. 328. 

35 Twomey, p. 175. 

36 Ibid. 

37 Gershon Legman, Love and Death (New York: Hacker Art 
Books, 1964), p. 34. 

38 Ibid., p. 33. 

39 Twomey, p. 181. 

40 Sidney Katz, "V/hat about the Comics: Are they the Road to 
Delinquency or Finding a 'Harmless Outlet'?" Maclean's, Vol. 

41 Gweneira Williams and Jane Wilson, "They Like it Rough," 
Library Journal, March 1, 1942, p. 206. 

42 Josette Frank, "What's in the Comics?" Journal of Educational 
Sociology, Vol., 8, No. 4, Dec. 1944, p. 217. 

43 Katherine M. Fiske and Marjorie Fiske, "The Children Talk 
About Comics," Norman G. Tubergen and Karen E. 
Freidland, "Preference Patterns for Comic Strips among 
Teenagers," Journalism Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 4, Winter, 
1972, pp. 745-50. The authors have noted a similar 
developmental pattern in the use of comic strips. 

44 Lauretta Bender, "The Psychology of Children's Reading and 
the Comics," Journal of Educational Sociology, Vol. 1 8, No. 4, 
Dec. 1944, p. 227. 

45 Josette Frank, "Chills and Thrills in Radio, Movies and 
Comics," Child Study, Vol. 25, Spring, 1948, p. 44. In 
contradiction to this assertion, J. Homer et al. in the Second 
Report on the Adoption of Television by Native Communities in 
the Canadian North, pp. 68-69 states: 

The Cree people are critical of sex and violence on television. 
They blame television for a too early awareness of sex on the 
part of the child and a too early experimentation with it. They 
also blame television for dangerous children's games including 
kung-fu fighting and sword fighting and for the occa.sional 
discovery of children tied up to trees and abandoned. 

46 Ibid., p. 48. 

47 Sidonie M. Gruenberg, "New Voices Speak to our Children," 
Parents' Magazine, Vol. 16, June, 1941, p. 23. 

48 Frank, "Chills and Thrills . . .," p. 44. 

49 Lauretta Bender and Reginald M. Laurie, "The Effect of 
Comic Books on the Ideology of Children," Ihe American 
Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Vol. 2, July, 1941, pp. 540-550. 

50 Paul S. Deland, "Battling Crime Comics to Protect Youth," 
Federal Probation, Vol. 19, 1905, pp. 26-30. 

5 1 Lovell Thompson, "How Serious are the Comics?" A tlantic 
Monthly, September, 1942, Vol. 170, p. 129. 

52 William T. Noble, "Superman and the Censors," Sunday 
Magazine, Feb. 22, 1976, pp. 17, 33. 

53 New Zealand Libraries, "Concern over Comics," Ontario 
Library Review, Vol. 30, May 1946, p. 162. 

54 Wertham questions the validity of the statements of 
psychiatrists cited who defend the comics as having positive 
value when he reveals that the most prominent are actually on 
the payrolls of the largest comic book publishers (p. 223). 

55 Harold C. Gardiner, The Catholic Viewpoint on Censorship 
(New York: Hanover House, 1958), p. 109. 

56 Ibid., p. 110. 

57 Twomey, p. 178. 

58 Dr. Jesse L. Murrel, "Annual Rating of Comic Magazines," 
Parents' Magazine, Vol. 25, Oct. 1950, pp. 44-45, Vol. 27, Nov. 
1952, pp. 48-49, Vol. 28, Oct. 1953, pp. 54-55, Vol. 29, Aug. 
1954, pp. 48-49, Vol. 30, Aug. 1955, pp. 48-50, Vol. 31, July 
1956, pp. 48-49. 

59 Dr. Jesse L. Murrel, "The Greater Cincinnati Committee on 
the Evaluation of Comic Books," in Larsen, p. 188. 

60 "Looking at the Comics 1949," Child Study, Fall 1949, Vol. 26, 
pp. 110-112, 124. 

61 Theodore Peterson, Magazines in the Twentieth Century 
(Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1964), p. 360. 

62 Murrel, "Cincinnati Committee . . .," p. 184. 

63 "Fighting Gunfire with Fire," Newsweek, Dec. 20, 1948, pp. 
54, 56-57. 

64 Peterson, p. 359. 

65 Walter B.J. Mitchell, Jr., "Dell Needs no Watchdog," 
America, Dec. 1 1, 1954, p. 308. 

66 John E. Twomey, The Anti-Comic Book Crusade, Master's 
thesis (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1955), p. 19. 

67 Ibid., pp. 20-21. 

68 Ibid., p. 22. 

69 Charles F. Murphy, "A Seal of Approval for the Comic 
Books," Federal Probation, Vol. 19, 1956, pp. 19-20. 

70 Fredric Wertham, "It's Still Murder," Saturday Review of 
Literature, April 9, 1955. 

71 Daniels, p. 89. 

72 Twomey, The Anti-Comic Book Crusade, p. 18. 

73 Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent, pp. 229-330. 

74 See Katz, pp. 7, 71-75, "The Wanser Comics," Maclean's, Vol. 
62, Mar. 8, 1947, p. 5 and "Crime Death Knell," Saturday 
Night, Vol. 65, Nov. 22, 1949, p. 28. 

75 "Canada Comics Ban," Newsweek, Nov. 1 1. 1949, p. 62. 


76 Twomey, The Ami-Comic Book Crusade , p. 10. 
Psychiatrist Fredric Wertham gave a testimony to the 
Canadian parhament which greatly influenced the final 

77 Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent, p. 282. 

78 Ibid., p. 281. 

79 "More Junk," Saturday Night, Vol. 65, Dec. 27, 1949. p. 37. 
The original draft of the bill contained a loophole. A dealer 
had to "knowingly" sell a comic book which "exclusively or 
substantially" comprised matter pictorially showing the 
commission of crimes, "real or fictitious." Under the revised 
legislation, ignorance was no excuse. 

A further amendment was made on April 1, 1955, which 
forbids the sale, distribution, publishing of crime comics 
defined as any book, serial, etc. filled wholly or substantially 
with pictures of actual crimes or events connected with crimes 
whether events occurred before or after, real or fictitious. 

80 Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent, p. 283. 

81 "More Junk," p. 87. 

82 Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent, p. 283. 

83 Financial Post, Vol. 45, July 1951, pp. 1, 3. The dealers were in 
a bind owing to the common practice of "block-booking" by 
which they were forced to accept crime comics to get other 
more respectable magazines. 

84 Ibid. 

85 Cicely Sampson, "Abolishing Crime Comics," Food for 
Thought, Vol. 18, Nov. 1957, pp. 74-81. 

86 Ibid., p. 85. 

87 Ibid., p. 74. 

88 Financial Post, V-1. 45, p. 8, 1951. 

89 Ibid., p. 122. 

90 Ibid., p. 118. 

91 Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent, p. 287. 

92 Ibid., p. 289. 

93 Ibid. 

94 Pickard, p. 97. 

95 Ibid., pp. 119-120. 

96 Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent, p. 372. 

97 Ibid., pp. 361,369. 

98 F. Earle Barcus, "Saturday's Kidvid Ghetto," in Robert J. 
Glassing and William P. White (eds.). Mass Media: The 
Invisible Environment (Chicago: Research Associates, 1973), 
pp. 142-143. 

Chapter Eight 

1 For more information on the role of the movies in moulding 
international opinion see John E. Harley. World-Wide 
Influences of the Cinema (Los Angeles: The University of 
Southern California Press, 1940). 

2 Denis McQuail. Towards a Sociologv of Mass Communication 
(London: CoUier-Macmillan, 1969), pp. 9-10. 

3 This aspect, and the discussion of media socialization is a 
condensed version of that found in Garth Jowett, Film: The 
Democratic Art {Boslon: Little. Brown and Company, 1976). 
pp. 11-15. 

4 Terry Ramsaye. A Million and One Nights (New York: Simon 
and Schuster, 1926), p. 256. 

5 Neville March Hunnings, Film Censors and the Law (London: 
George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1967), p. 37. 

6 For more details on children and movies see Jowett, Film: The 
Democratic Art, pp. 77-83. 

7 Hunnings, p. 41. 

8 Jane Addams, The Spirit of Youth and City Streets (New York: 
The Macmillan Company, 1909), pp. 75-76. 

9 Robert Grau. The Theatre of Science, 1914 (Reprinted, New 
York: Benjamin Blom, 1969). p. 88. 

10 William Healy, The Individual Delinquent {Bosion: Little, 
Brown and Company), p. 307. 

11 Ibid., p. 308. 

12 Donald R. Young, Motion Pictures: A Study in Social 
Legislation (Philadelphia: Westbrook Publishing Company, 
1922), p. 6. 

13 J.S. Woodsworth, My Neighbour (ToTonlo: University of 
Toronto Press, reprint edition, 1972), pp. 92-93. 

14 National Council of Public Morals, The Cinema: Its Present 
Position and Future Possibilities (London: Williams and 
Norgate, 1917). p. xxi. 

15 See Jowett, Film: The Democratic Art which suggests that the 
struggle over motion picture content was largely due to the 
conflict between national and local interests which took place 
in many other spheres in the first half of the twentieth century. 

16 14App. Div. 117,43nys571 (IstDept. 1897). 

17 The New York Times, May 26, 1897. 

18 Hunnings, p. 41. 

19 Ibid., pp. 41-42. 

20 Nicholas A. Vardac, Stage to Screen (Cambridge: Harvard 
University Press, 1949), p. 250. 

21 Lewis Jacobs, The Rise of the American Film (New York: 
Teacher's College Press, 1939), p. 67. 

22 Alexander Walker, Stardom (New York: Stein and Day 
Publishers, 1970), p. 61. 

23 Editorial in Review of Reviews, December, 1908. pp. 744-745. 

24 Ramsaye. p. 478. 

25 Ira H. Carmen. Movies, Censorship and the Law (Ann Arbor: 
University of Michigan Press, 1966), p. 186. 

26 Ramsaye, pp. 480-481. 

27 Young, p. 42. 

28 The role of the Hays Oflnce is discussed in Jowett. pp. 164- 
184; and in Raymond Moley. The Havs Office (New York: 
Bobbs-Merrill Company. 1945). 

29 The Motion Picture Producers of America. Inc., The Motion 
Picture Production Code: Reasons Supporting the Preamble, 

30 The Payne Fund Studies are listed below. All have been 
reprinted by Arno Press, New York, 1971. 

Blumer, Herbert, Movies and Conduct (New York: The 
Macmillan Companv, 1933). 

Blumer. Herbert and Philip M. Hauser. Movies, Delinquency 
and Crime (New York: The Macmillan Company. 1933). 

Charters. W.W.. Motion Pictures and Youth (New York: The 
Macmillan Companv. 1933). 


Dale, Edgar, Children's Attendance at Motion Pictures (New 
York: The Macmillan Company, 1935). 

Dale, Edgar, The Content of Motion Pictures (New York: 
The Macmillan Company. 1935). 

Dale, Edgar, How to Appreciate Motion Pictures (New York: 
The Macmillan Company, 1937). 

Dysinger. Wendell S. and Christian A. Ruckmick, The 
Emotional Responses of Children to the Motion Picture Situation 
(New York: The Macmillan Company, 1935). 

Holaday, Perry W. and George D. Stoddard, Getting Ideas 
from the Movies (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1933). 

Peters, Charles C, Motion Pictures and Standards of 
Morality (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1933). 

Peterson, Ruth and L.I. Thurstone, Motion Pictures and the 
Social Attitudes of Children (New York: The Macmillan 
Company, 1933). 

Renshaw, Samuel, Vernon L. Miller and Dorothy P. 
Marquis, Children's Sleep (New York: The Macmillan 
Company, 1933). 

Shuttleworth, Frank K. and Mark A. May, The Social 
Conduct and Attitudes of Movie Fans (New York: The 
Macmillan Company, 1933). 

31 236 U.S. 230 (1915). 

32 Richard S. Randall, Censorship of the Movies (Madison: 
University of Wisconsin Press, 1968), p. 19. 

33 Ibid., p. 19. 

34 343 U.S. 495 (1952). 

35 343 U.S. 495 (1952) at 501. 

36 343 U.S. 495 (1952) at 502-503. 

37 Randall, p. 35. 

38 Ibid. 

39 The New York Times, January 25, 1961, p. 32. 

40 Ibid., January 29, 1961, sec. 4, p. I. 

41 "A Divided Court Rewrites the Definition of Obscenity," 
Congressional Quarterly, June 23, 1973, p. 1571. 

42 Boxoffice. July 30. 1973, p. 4. 

43 The New York Times, June 25, 1974, p. 7. 

44 390 U.S. 676(1968). 

45 390 U.S. 629(1968). 

46 Stephen Farber, The Movie Rating Game (Washington, D.C.: 
Public Affairs Press, 1972), p. 15. 

47 "Film-Rating Fiasco," /Imer/ca, Vol. 124 (May 29, 1971), 
p. 557. 

48 Philip C. Rule, "Film Ratings: 1934 Rewisited," America, Vol. 
124(May29. 1971), p. 571. 

49 Runnings, p. 48. 

50 Guy Phelps. Film Censorship (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 
1975), p. 28. 

51 Ibid., p. 29. 

52 Ibid. 

53 Ibid., pp. 29-30. 

54 Ibid., p. 31. 


Selected Bibliography 

Control of Literature 

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and Co. Inc., 1970. 

Arendt, Hannah. On Violence. New York: Harcourt Brace and 
World, 1970. 

Ashton, John. Chaphooks of the Eighteenth Century. Welwyn 
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Bassam, Bertha. The First Printers and Newspapers in Canada. 
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Bennett, H.S. "The Author and His Public in the Fourteenth 
and Fifteenth Centuries," Essays and Studies by Members of 
the English Association, 23 (1938), 7-24. 

"Caxton and His Public," Review of English Studies, 19 

(1943), 113-19. 

."Printers, Authors and Readers 1475-1557," Library, 

Ser. 5,4(1949), 155-65. 

.English Books and Readers, Vol. I, 1475-1557, Vol. II, 

1558-1600. Vol. 3, 1603-1640. Cambridge: University Press, 

Black, Robson. "Canadian Journalism," Canadian Magazine 
32 (1909), 434-40. 

Blakey, Dorothy. The Minerva Press J 790-1 820. London: for 
the Bibliographic Society at University Press, Oxford, 1939. 

Brian, Denis. Murderers and Other Friendly People. New York: 
McGraw-Hill, 1973. 

Briggs, Asa (ed.) Essays in the History of Publishing. London: 
Longman, 1974. 

Browne, Ray B. Popular Culture and the Expanding 
Consciousness. New York: Wiley, 1973. 

"Canada's Literature," Canadian Bookman. Feb. 1928, 
pp. 41-2. 

The Canadian Press Association. A History of Canadian 
Journalism 1859-1908. Toronto: CPA, 1908. 

"Canadians and Canadian Books," Queen's Quarterly, Vol. 52, 
No. 2: 208-13, 1945. 

Careless, J. M.S. "Mid-Victorian Liberalism in Central 
Canadian Newspapers," Canadian Historical Review, 31 
(1945), 221-236. 

Chafee, Zechariah. Government and Mass Communication. 
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947. 

Cohen, Stanley and Jack Young (eds.). The Manufacture of 
News: Social Problems. Deviance and the Mass Media. 
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Collins, Wilkie. "The Unknown Public." Household Words 18 
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Collison, Robert. The Story of Street Literature: Forerunner of 

the Popular Press. Santa Barbara: American Bibliographic 
Centre, Cho Press, 1973. 

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Houghton Mifflin Co., 1962. 

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Edwards, P.D. Some Mid-Victorian Thrillers: The Sensation 
Novel; Its Friends and Its Foes. St. Lucia, Queensland: 
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. A History of Journalism in Canada. Toronto: 

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(1969). pp. 85-92. 

Kobre, Sidney. The Yellow Press and Gilded Age Journalism. 
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Harper and Row, 1968. 

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and Windus. 1932. 

Legman. Gershon. Love and Death. New York: Hacker Art 
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Artscanada 25: 19-24, 51, April, 1968. 

Mott, Frank Luther. American Journalism. New York: 
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. Golden Multitudes: The Story of Best Sellers in the U.S. 

New York: Macmillan, 1947. 
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of the Making and Sale of Books. London: George Allen and 
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David Charles, 1973. 

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New York: Hawthorn Books, 1969. 

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Literary Censorship in England. London: Routledge and 
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and Row, 1961. 


Control of Radio 

Albig, John William. "The Content of Radio Programs 1925- 
1938," Social Forces 16: 338-49, March 1938. 

Angus. H.F. (ed.). Canada and Her Great Neighbour. Toronto: 
Ryerson Press, 1938. 

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the United States to 1933. New York: Oxford University 
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. The Golden Web: A History of Broadcasting in the 

United States, 1933-1953. New York: Oxford University 
Press, 1968. 

Briggs, Asa. The Birth of Broadcasting. London: Oxford 
University Press, 1961. 

The Golden Age of Wireless. London: Oxford 

University Press, 1970. 

The War of Words. London: Oxford University Press, 


Caldwell, Edward C. "Censorship of Radio Programs," Journal 
of Radio Law, Vol. I No. 3. Oct. !931, pp. 441-476. 

Canadian Association of Broadcasters. "A Statement of Policy 
on Freedom of Broadcast Publication." Brief to the Royal 
Commission on Broadcasting (Fowler), 1956. 

"The Children's Hour," The Nation, April 15, 1933, Vol. 136, 
No. 3535, p. 362. 

Clark, Weston R. "Radio Listening Habits of Children," 
Journal of Social Psychology 12, 131-49, August 1940. 

Cousins, Norman. "Timetrap," Saturday Review, December 24, 
1949, p. 20. 

Davis, Robert Edward. "Response to Innovation: A Study of 
Popular Argument About New Mass Media." Ph.D. 
dissertation, Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa, 1965. 

Edmondson, Madeline and David Rounds. The Soaps. New 
York: Stein and Day, 1973. 

Eisenberg, Azriel L. Children and Radio Programs. New York: 
Teachers College Press, 1935. 

Frank, Josette. "Chills and Thrills in Radio, Movies and 
Comics," Child Study, Vol. 25, Spring 1948, pp. 42-48. 

"Comics, Radio, Movies - and Children," 

Washington: Public Affairs Committee, 1949. 

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Fraunhaur, G. "Annoyances in Radio Programs," Public 
Opinion Quarterly, 1938, Vol. 2, pp. 627-635. 

Gielgud, Val. British Radio Drama 1922-1956. London: 
Harrap, 1957. 

Gruenberg, Sidonie Matsner. "Radio and the C\\\\d," Annals of 
the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 
177, Jan. 1935, pp. 123-134. 

"Hand that Rocks Cradle Shakes a Warning Finger at Radio," 
Newsweek, Vol. 6, July 13, 1935, p. 29. 

Harlow, Alvin Fay. Old Wires and New Waves [the History of 
the Telegraph, Telephone, and Wireless]. New York: Arno 
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Harmon, Jim. The Great Radio Heroes. Garden City. New 
Jersey: Doubleday, 1967. 

Head, Sydney W. Broadcasting in America: A Survey of 

Television and Radio. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton 
Mifflin. 1956. 

Heisler, Florence. "A Comparison Between those Elementary 
School Children Who Attend Movmg Pictures, Read Comic 
Books and Listen to Serial Radio Programs to an Excess, 
with Those Who Indulge in These Activities Seldom or Not 
at All," Journal of Educational Research, 1948, Vol. 42, pp. 

Helffrich, Stockton. "The Radio and Television Codes and the 
Public Iniere^l," Journal of Broadcasting, Vol. 14, No. 3, 
Summer 1970, pp. 261 -11 A. 

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Listening to Daytime Sketches." Studies in the Philosophy of 
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Jamieson, Don. The Troubled Air. Fredericton: Brunswick 
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21, pp. 265-79. 

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Canadian-American Affairs. New York: Ginn and Co., 1936. 

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Magazine, Vol. 93, No. 5, May 1933, p. 313. 

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Opinion Quarterly 3: 683-88 (October 1939). 

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1933, 10,7:5. 

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Ogburn, William F. and S.C. Gilfillan. "The Influence of 
Invention and Discovery," in Recent Social Trends, New 
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Peers, Frank W. The Politics of Canadian Broadcasting 
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Preston, M.I. "Children's Reactions to Movie Horrors and 
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"Radio Gore Criticized for Making Children's Hour a Pause 
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Radio Panic Not New," Saturday Night. Nov. 5, 1938, p. 1. 

"Radio Program Controls: A Network of Inadequacy," Yale 
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"Radio Regulation and Freedom of the Air," Harvard Law 
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Raymond, Allen. "Static Ahead!" New Outlook, Julv 1933. pp. 

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Saturday Night, January 19, 1952, Vol. 67, pp. 4-5. 

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Schubert, Paul. The Electric Word; The Rise of Radio. New 
York: Arno Press, 1971 [1928]. 

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Broadcast Programs" Rockv Mountain Law Review, Vol. 20, 
No. 4. June 1948, pp. 366-380. 

Seldes, Gilbert. The Great Audience. New York: Viking Press, 

Shaw, Robert. "Forms of Censorship," Hollywood Quarterly, 
Vol. I, 1945-6. pp. 199-210. 

Shea, Albert A. Broadcasting the Canadian Way. Montreal: 
Harvest House, 1963. 

Shelby, Maurice E., Jr. "The Possible Influence of Criticism on 
Network Radio Programming for Children," Journal of 
Broadcasting. Sprmg 1970, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 215-227. 

Summers, Havison B. Radio Censorship. New York: Arno 
Press, 1971 [1939]. 

Waples, Douglas. People and Print; Social Aspects of Reading in 
the Depression. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1938. 

Warner, W. Lloyd and William E. Henry. "The Radio 

Daytime Serial: A Symbolic Analysis," Genetic Psychology 
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Weir, E. Austin. The Struggle for National Broadcasting in 
Canada. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1965. 

Williams, Albert N. "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them," 
Saturday Review, Feb. 8, 1947, pp. 26-27. 

Control of Comics 

Bender, Lauretta and R.S. Laurie. "Effects of Comic Books on 
the Ideology of Children," American Journal of Orthogenics 
11 (1941), 540-550. 

"The Psychology of Children's Reading and the 

Comics." Journal of Educational Sociology, Vol. 18, No. 4, 
Dec. 1944, pp. 223-341. 

Berger, Arthur Asa. The Comic-Stripped American. New York: 
Walker, 1973. 

Buhle, Paul. "The New Comics and American Culture," in 
Literature in Revolution by George Abbott White and 
Charles Newman, (eds.). New York: Holt, Rinehart and 
Winston, 1972. 

"Comic-book Czar and Code," America, Feb. 10, 1954, pp. 2-3. 
New York. 

"Comic-books and Delinquency," America, Vol. 91, April 24, 
1954, p. 86, New York. 

Craven, Thomas. Cartoon Cavalcade. Simon and Schuster, 

"Crime Comics Alberta Case is Dismissed," Financial Post, 
45:8, July 28, 1951. 

Daniels, Leo. Comix: A History of Comic Books in America. 
New York: Outerbridge and Dienstfrey, 1971. 

Davidson, Sol. M. "Culture and the Comic Strips," Ph.D. 
dissertation. New York University, 1959. 

Edelstern, Alex S., J.L. Nelson. "Violence in the Comic 

CsLTioon," Journalism Quarterly, Vol. 46, 1969, No. 2, 
pp. 355-358, New York. 

Feifl'er, Jules. Sick Sick Sick. McGraw-Hill, New York, 1956. 

The Great Comic Book Heroes. New York: Dial, 1965. 

Fiske, Marjorie, Katherine M. Wolf "Why They Read 
Comics," in Paul F. Laxarsfeld and Frank Stanton (eds.). 
Communication Research J 948-49. New York: Harper and 
Bros, 1949. 

Frank, Josette. "Let's Look at the Comics" Child Study, 30 
(1942), 76. 

. "What's in the Comics," Journal of Educational 

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Violence in the 
of Our Time 

Robert Fulford 

Saturday Night 
Toronto, Ontario 

There seems to be little argument over the fact that 
violence plays a major part in the public storytelling - 
movies, television, books, plays - of this historic period. 
The following notes attempt to explore some of the 
sources of that pre-occupation with violence, and some 
of the explanations given for it. But before discussing 
that, I want to describe the community to which that 
fictional violence is offered, the community that pays 
money for it, accepts it, and apparently enjoys it. And 
here I proceed without documentation or footnotes, 
intuition being my only guide. My experience, as writer, 
husband, father, citizen, teaches me that I live in a 
community - I'm speaking here of North America and 
the democracies of Western Europe - which is 
dominated by envy. Most of the people around me, no 
matter how successful they may be, no matter how 
much they may have exceeded the original goals of their 
adult life, are profoundly envious of one another. This 
envy is without question a part of the human condition 
but in my view it is heavily reinforced, and distorted out 
of all proportion, by the mass media and the messages 
they deliver to us. We - the last few generations or so, 
but especially the generation that came to maturity in 
the television age - have to contend with something 
none of our ancestors faced: we feel compelled to 
watch, every day of our lives, an unending spectacle of 
riches displayed before us on the screens in our living 
rooms and [to a lesser extent] in our cinemas. The 
pictures on these screens describe to us a life that in 
many ways seems superior to the one we lead. That 
pictured life is glamorous, exciting, sexually fulfilling, 
lacking in drudgery or boredom. It is lived by persons 
who are more handsome than we are, and apparently 
more satisfied with their work and their private lives. 
Most of these persons - whether they are in spy stories 
or situation comedies or sports programs - seem to 
move effortlessly from one absorbing event to another. 
Naturally, they arouse our envy. At the same time, 
while these programs seem to stimulate our envy 
accidentally, the commercials which interrupt them do 
so on purpose. The commercials describe to us a life that 
is better than the one we live - full of comradeship, love, 
glamour. This is the life we can have, the commercials 
imply, if only we purchase the products named. We 
know that is a lie, yet we are unable to restrain the 
feeling that somehow we have been cheated of 
something. The eff"ect of television, I am trying to say, is 
to make us unhappy with what we have or may ever 
hope to have - and I believe this is a more important 
efi'ect of television than the violence it may or may not 

The result of this much envy can only be a perma- 
nent, barely suppressed (and not always suppressed) 
rage. We grow angry at what we lack; and, as the years 
of television-watching constantly remind us of the 
inadequacy of our lives, we grow angrier still. But 
television and movies offer us an antidote. They sell us a 
cure for the disease they have helped produce: violence. 

They off'er us a temporary release in the form of horren- 
dously violent movies and programs that release - for 
only a moment, of course - our worst angers. As I've 
said elsewhere, this is a solution, of sorts, in the sense 
that heroin is a solution to an unhappy family life. 

But where does the violence that the media provide 
come from? It can be traced at least partly to serious 
literature - the serious international fiction that is 
admiringly reviewed in the newspapers, studied in our 
universities, analyzed in the quarterly literary journals. 
This literature is not usually Canadian in origin - the 
theme of mindless violence that appears so often in 
international literature turns up only occasionally in 
Canadian fiction, and in any case Canadian fiction 
matters only slightly to the media climate we live in. It 
is not Canadian literature that shapes the minds of the 
men and women [mostly in Los Angeles and New York] 
who in turn shape our mass media. 

Those who do not ordinarily read serious fiction may 
be surprised at the violence it contains. It is a common- 
place of media criticism to note that the popular arts 
increasingly emphasize violence and it is assumed that 
in this emphasis there is far more than a hint of 
commercial motive: "violence sells". What is not 
noticed nearly so often is that the serious novel, one of 
the least commercial of art forms, has also shown - 
over, say, the last 30 years - an increasing preoccu- 
pation with violence. Here the motive is seldom, if ever, 
purely commercial because the art form itself is only 
marginally commercial. Most serious novels do not sell 
more than a few thousand copies when they first appear. 
Authors and publishers do not produce them for 
commercial motives because, more often than not, the 
writmg and publishing of such books is a way of losing 
rather than making money. What they are trying to do, 
out of an unknowable mixture of pure and impure 
motives, is to tell the truth. The 1976 Nobel laureate, 
Saul Bellow - in whose novels violence appears briefly 
but crucially, like a series of lightning flashes - recently 

When it is going well a novel affords the highest kind of truth; 
a good writer can lay claim to a disinterestedness that is as 
great as that of a pure scientist ... In its complicated, possibly 
even mysterious, way. the novel is an instrument for delving 
into human truths ... As a novelist, it is a good part of my job 
to attempt to formulate, as dramatically and as precisely as I 
can, the pain and anguish that we all feel.' 

Pain and anguish, endured without the ultimate conso- 
lation of religion, have been at the core of the modern 
experience, and it has been the novelist's function 
(among many other functions) to bring our particular 
contemporary pain and particular contemporary 
anguish within the realm of literature. In doing this, the 
novelists cannot help us to eliminate the pain and 
anguish; but they can show us ways to think about them 
and experience them emotionally. 

The developments in government and technology 
peculiar to the twentieth century, working on us both 


consciously and unconsciously, have transformed the 
western world's view of mankind, and at the same time 
have radically altered the serious literature of the 
western world. Under the pressure of public events, the 
central movement of thought in our time - thought in 
this case as reflected by recent fiction has been away 
from the liberal humanism of the pre- 19 14 period and 
toward a pessimistic view of mankind's possibilities and 
prospects, a view that increasingly expresses itself 
through the imagining and depiction of violent acts as 
central symbols of mankind's nature. The American 
poet Stanley Kunitz has tried to sum up what this has 
meant to writers: 

We live in one of the most violent epochs of history, in which 
none of us can claim ignorance of the many faces of disorder. 
A man of this century has witnessed great seismic shifts of 
power: the rise and fall of dictators: the convulsions of 
nations; the slaughter of innocents: unprecedented scandals in 
high places, brutalities, terrors. 'Things fall apart: the centre 
cannot hold,' Yeats wrote.- 

The present essay attempts to indicate how our 
changing perceptions of violence are demonstrated in 
the work of a few distinguished novelists of recent 
decades. It tries to suggest ways in which these works - 
selected from among hundreds of examples that might 
be used - mirror modern history, both as that history 
has actually happened and as it has been (partially) 
assimilated into the collective mind of western 
humanity. It considers the possibility that violence in all 
forms of art, while at times reflecting commercial 
pressures, is nevertheless also an unavoidable part of 
our most serious as well as our most frivolous culture. 
And it tries to indicate how the use of violence in "high 
culture" (in this case serious fiction) may influence the 
content of "mass culture" i.e.. movies and television. 

The ideas contained here are necessarily personal. 
They are not based on a measured sociological survey; 
they do not pretend to scientific precision. They emerge 
from a lifetime of reading and a quarter of a century 
spent in analyzing the results of that reading in terms of 
its sources and its results. 

My argument begins where the imaginative life of our 
time really begins - in the German death camps as the 
soldiers from North America and England discovered 
them in 1944 and 1945, and under the blinding atomic 
sun of Hiroshima in the summer of 1945. 

These events were so traumatic, so powerful in their 
eff'ect on the collective western soul, that to this day - 
more than three decades later - we have only begun to 
sense completely their meaning. Their importance is all 
the greater for the fact that we try to ignore them. At 
certain times, and in certain circumstances, we speak of 
them; but for the most part, we try to let them rest. Yet 
they sit deep in our subconscious, their eflfects spreading 
out in waves to influence, not only what we say. but 
how we think and feel about ourselves and others. 

On the one hand, we learned that what had happened 
in Germany was far worse than we had feared or even 

dreamt some six million persons, little children as well 
as men and women, had been gassed or otherwise 
destroyed after being pitilessly degraded. This was the 
worst crime of all the centuries, and it had been accom- 
plished in our time by persons not vastly difl^erent from 
us. We were all implicated because it was not done by a 
small group of men - a whole continent had conspired 
with Hitler to kill the Jews, and it was the same 
continent from which our culture sprang. The 
Holocaust is a fact of history from which we still shield 
ourselves, which we still have not altogether under- 

On the other hand, we learned in roughly the same 
period of the existence of a military weapon so terrible 
it could destroy us all - and it had already been used 
(some said unnecessarily) to destroy a city. Ever since, 
psychologists and psychiatrists have tried to consider 
the eff'ect of those events on all of us. The psychiatrist 
Robert Jay Lifton has spoken of the "psychic numbing" 
that Hiroshima and Nagasaki produced: 

Concerning the atomic bomb, for instance, one could find 
evidence of psychic numbing in the scientists who created it 
and the way in which they looked upon what they were doing: 
in the behavior of the political leaders who made the decision 
to drop it, or at least failed to decide not to drop it: and in the 
pilots and crewmen who carried it to. and released it over, its 
target. When I say this. I am not name-calling, but attempting 
to illustrate a general phenomenon. In any case. I would stress 
the widespread indeed universal [italics added] nuclear 
numbing affecting us today .^ 

Since 1945 we have lived simultaneously with the 
knowledge of how badly humans can act when given 
total power over others and the know ledge that total 
human extinction is possibly our immediate fate. These 
two central facts, each of them surrounded by endless 
documentation and argument, became the major 
shaping data of our historic period - they are respon- 
sible, more than anything else, for the intellectual and 
moral climate in which we live. Through them our 
thoughts were driven to extremes - what one American 
poet called "the age of enormity" had become "the age 
of extremity". The death camps gave us one idea of 
human extremity, the nuclear bombs gave us another. 
For all the years since then we have lived in the shadow 
of these two events. TTiey eff'ectively destroyed our 
optimism, and our central belief in the inevitable 
progress of mankind; they gave us a new conception of 
evil and its permanent place in the world. They brought 
us to a dark recognition of the fact that evil will not be 
banished, will not be redeemed. As Jean-Paul Sartre 

We have been taught to take Evil seriously. It is neither our 
fault nor our merit if we lived in a time when torture was a 
daily fact . . . Dachau and Auschwitz have all demonstrated to 
us that Evil is not an appearance, that knowing its causes does 
not dispel it. that it is not opposed to Good as a confused idea 
is to a clear one ... In spite of ourselves, we come to this 
conclusion, which will seem shocking to lofty souls: Evil 
cannot be redeemed.'' 


Many of our most serious books, and many of our most 
frivolous, reflect the data that Sartre stresses. It could be 
argued, of course, that books, particularly serious 
books, matter only a little in forming popular 
consciousness - that same popular consciousness which 
is a part of the subject of this Royal Commission. The 
argument could be made that television and, to a lesser 
extent, movies, have pushed books out of the arena in 
which mass taste is created; and that therefore the 
tendencies demonstrated by writers like Norman Mailer 
or William Burroughs are only distantly relevant to this 

Against that there are two important points to be 
made: (1) Novels sell better now, in paperback, than 
they have ever sold before - and most of the novels 
mentioned in this study have been distributed in the 
millions as mass market paperbacks. (2) Despite the 
obvious commercial predominance of television and 
movies, the North American culture in which we live is 
still based on the written word. "Literature", defined 
very broadly, is the bedrock on which mass culture 

The second of these points needs some explanation. 
Every television show or movie, before it becomes a 
series of images, must be a series of written words, 
produced by someone who calls himself or herself a 
writer. This writer, however distantly, is part of the 
literary world and is influenced by the course of 

In the most spectacularly successful cases, the 
relationship between "literature" and mass visual 
culture is close and direct: the words are published and 
distributed first, as books. The most popular movies 
(The Godfather or Jaws) come from books, and so in 
many cases do the most successful television shows 
(Roots or Rich Man, Poor Man). 

Beyond that, books remain the most important single 
means for developing, promulgating and exchanging 
ideas among the educated elite who create the mass 
media. When an idea appears on television, it is more 
often than not an idea that has first been developed in 
book form. 

In this process, "serious" literature has a way of 
making legitimate - at least in the eyes of the creators - 
certain ideas and images that might otherwise be 
considered outrageous. The academic critic John 
Fraser, after surveying various kinds of violence in liter- 
ature, writes: 

... it is a great merit of some of the violences that I have been 
talking about in these pages that they make it harder to ignore 
certain facts, such as the intensity with which some convictions 
are held, and the implacability with which some people act on 
their beliefs, and the fact that in some conflicts both parties 
cannot be winners and that beyond a certain point one has to between them if one wishes to retain one's intellectual 

Fraser is saying, in other words, that violence is an 
essential part of the seriousness of the works he 

discusses; without that violence they have less purpose 
and would accomplish less of what they set out to do. 
But this same kind of academic argument is frequently 
moved over into mass culture - as, for instance, in many 
arguments given by the film director Sam Peckinpah, 
whose movies (beginning with 77?^ Wild Bunch in 1969) 
have led the way toward more and more expHcit 
violence in the movies and, indirectly, on television. The 
argument set fourth by Peckinpah and his admirers is 
that only if we see something that looks like real 
violence on the screen (blood spurting from men's 
heads, for instance) can we understand the nature of 
violence. The "mild" violence favored by earlier film 
directors is thus seen as an evasion, a form of dishon- 
esty. The thinking behind this owes a great deal to what 
we call high culture: it is one of the many illustrations 
of an academic/ intellectual idea put to use in the 
commercial marketplace. 

Violent images and ideas (like ideas of many other 
kinds) tend to move downward in our culture. What is 
used in a highbrow novel in one decade may be used in 
a lowbrow novel in the next. Scenes of homosexual 
rape, explicitly described, appear in the 1960s in novels 
like those of Hubert Selby Jr.; by 1975 homosexual rape 
in a prison has turned up in Arthur Hailey's TTie 
Moneychangers, a frankly commercial, popular novel; 
and a year or so after that it appears on network 
television in the television adaptation of the Hailey 

Sometimes the movement from high culture to serious 
culture is even more direct. Violence in a novel may be 
given a context that provides its meaning, but that 
meaning may be lost when the material of the novel is 
used elsewhere. Anthony Burgess's /I Clockwork 
Orange, when it first appeared, was praised as a 
remarkably original novel: its brilliant language and its 
solemn discussion of the morality of behaviour therapy 
were judged important. It was, beyond question, a 
"serious" work. But when the same material was made 
into a film by Stanley Kubrick, the literary quality 
vanished and the moral point was muddied; but the 
violent actions were retained and reinforced. 

The interchange between highbrow and popular 
culture is, however, more complicated than a simple 
and inexorable downward motion. Ideas move in the 
opposite direction as well the efl'ects of popular 
culture can often be traced in serious literature, particu- 
larly since the 1960s. The writings of William 
Burroughs, for instance, are deeply aflfected by private- 
eye melodramas and comic-book fantasies. Popular 
culture is part of the environment in which the writer 
forms his own character and taste. A novelist who in 
adolescence sees movies like Peckinpah's Straw Dogs 
may decide that Peckinpah-like violence is acceptable 
in his own work when he becomes a professional writer. 

For all of these reasons we can only begin to under- 
stand violence in mass culture if we understand how it 
works in serious literature. In this context the novels of 


Jerzy Kosinski provide a set of examples. Kosinski 
works from within the world of Evil which Sartre 
described, the world in which Evil cannot be redeemed 
but must be acknowledged and confronted. His 
characters - victims of Nazi oppression and ordinary 
citizens of the world alike - have abandoned morality. 
Like the rest of us, they live in a world driven to 
extremes of immorality. But unlike most of us, they 
allow these extremes to pervade their personalities and 
find expression in their actions. In this they are typical 
figures of modern fiction. Others like them have 
appeared in earlier writing - in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's 
fiction, for example - but in the past they tended to be 
rare exceptions and were studied carefully on just those 
grounds. Now they have ceased to be exceptions. They 
are the kind of people the serious contemporary reader 
meets again and again in the books of our time. Their 
hves and their natures are violent because they live in a 
world in which - religion having largely vanished from 
public life - the only real force is violence. 

Kosinski is a moralist who writes about immorality. 
His morality lies in his insistence that we face the truth 
about mankind. Most of us are dedicated to keeping the 
truth about our common humanity at a distance. When 
someone does something of which we vigorously disap- 
prove, we call his or her actions "inhuman" - even 
though they may be actions which have been performed 
often by persons who are clearly members of the human 
race. Kosinski's books insist that it as "human" to 
destroy as to create. His characters, stripped of moral 
sense, express that side of humanity which gave us the 
death camps, the Soviet slave camps, the atomic 
bombings, and the many subsequent events to which we 
have now become all but inured. 

Kosinski's most recent novel. Cockpit, concerns a 
kind of freelance secret agent, Tarden, who penetrates 
the lives of others and produces well-planned chaos. He 
uses kidnapping, killing, beating, and rape for his own 
pleasure and the advancement of his never-quite- 
defined plans. If other characters in the novel displease 
him, he plans careful and deeply painful vengeance. 
Towards the end of the book he has an aff"air with a 
beautiful woman and helps arrange her marriage to a 
rich man. She becomes famous and powerful, and then 
refuses to continue seeing Tarden. He plans his revenge 
carefully. He kidnaps her and takes her to his apart- 
ment. He confronts her: "Was she stupid enough to 
believe that I would let her forget her personal debt to 
me or that she could abort our relationship when it 
pleased her to do so?" He goes out and returns with 
three derelict middle-aged men, whom he pays to 
degrade her: 

They threw her down on the carpet. All three of them swarmed 
all over her, licking and squeezing. I climbed on the desk and 
took pictures from above. The spotlights shone on her hair, on 
the embroidery of her dress, on the derelicts' gaunt bodies. The 
men's arms moved over her like skeletons' limbs, peeling off 
her clothes until she was naked and spread-eagled on her back. 

her arms flailing at the three scrofulous heads that eagerly bent 
over her. 

After she has been raped many times and otherwise 
degraded, she leaves his apartment. But agam she 
refuses to see him. Now he determmes to destroy her. 
He blackmails her into seeing him once more. They are 
to go to an air show together. He has prepared an 
especially hideous death. He goes to see a test pilot who 
will be showing aircraft at the show. He explains that he 
wants to put a woman in front of the aircraft's radar 
system and then turn on the system. The pilot says: 

'I can't do that. If the radar functions while the plane is on the 
ground, there's a serious radiation hazard. Do you know what 
radar radiation would do to her?' 

i do.' 

'It would kill her.' 

The pilot says that would be a hell of a way to kill a person. 

'If you refuse me,' I said, 'I'll have someone wrap a heavy towel 
around her head to muffle her screams, and club her repeatedly 
with an iron bar until her blood soaks through the towel, and 
her skull, jaw and spine are smashed. Is that more merciful?' 

The pilot refuses, but Tarden continues his argument: 

You found reasons to machine-gun, bomb and napalm 
thousands of perfect strangers (in Vietnam). All I want you to 
do is switch on the radar. Instead of a village, its screen will 
show a single, human-shaped target. After a moment too brief 
for proper identification of the object, you will simply switch 
the radar off. Your mission will be over and for it I'll pay you 
as much cash as you were paid for all your combat missions 
put together. How's that for a logic tree? Can you override 

The pilot agrees, the radar is switched on. and we are 
left to assume that the woman dies horribly of cancer in 
the months that follow. 

There is a kind of addled morality to the character 
Tarden. After all, the woman has "betrayed" him, and 
at one point we are told she may be plotting her 
husband's murder; therefore she is punished. But if this 
is morality, it is a kind of imaginative version of the law 
of the jungle, because it is a morality stripped of 
restraints. Tarden has reached the point of limitless 
violence and exploitation of humans -just as, Kosinski 
would argue, the civiUzed world long ago reached it. 
Tarden argues that the pilot, after all, killed thousands 
of anonymous humans without a twinge of regret; his 
acquiescence in the radiation death of the woman is by 
comparison a crime of modest dimensions. 

It can be objected that Kosinski, in Cockpit as in 
other books ( The Painted Bird. Steps, et cetera) reaches 
beyond the ordinary depiction of murder or rape and 
moves towards the pornography of violence. His 
descriptions are detailed (though written in a spare and 
graceful style) ; he stresses the violence. But Kosinski 
could argue in reply that it is the very intimacy of his 
work, the very closeness of the reader's relation to both 
the murderer and his victim, that makes his fiction 
meaningful. To distance the writing would rob it of its 


artistic meaning: literary art is only art if it matters to 
the reader, and Kosinski's stylistic closeness is a way of 
making it matter. For the writer to step back and regard 
his material with a cool eye would be to let the reader 
off too easily. 

Kosinski has, in fact, argued that rejecting the "truth" 
of his direct, mind-assaulting passages is a kind of 
evasion which may be harmful to the reader - even in 
the most practical terms. If one flees from such knowl- 
edge, he suggests: 

. . . you make yourself even more vulnerable. The tragedy, for 
instance, of East European Jewry was that when they were, 
well - collected - perhaps I should say, by the Germans and 
transported to the concentration camps, until the last second 
they did not believe that they would perish in the gas chamber. 
They heard of it, but they didn't believe it. They said, it's 
simply incredible. Why would a civilized nation do something 
of that sort? The inability to see the trauma of daily life as such 
breeds future victims. 

I remember a woman who told me that she couldn't read the 
book The Painted Bird; she reached this particular episode and 
couldn't go through it. When I said why, she said, the eyes are 
being gouged out. And I said well, there are worse things, there 
were worse things, there have been worse things in our reality. 
Have you heard of the concentration camps? . . . Certainly, this 
I understand very well, but gouging out someone's eyes, how 
can you explain something like this? And this is my point. The 
concentration camp as such is a symbol you can hve with very 
well. We do . . . But when you describe the eyes being gouged 
out, you don't make it easier for the reader, he cannot help 
feeling his own eyes disappearing somehow, becoming blind.' 

Kosinski sees his work, in all its violence and squalor, 
as a metaphor for the human condition in this period 
for what has happened, for what is happening, for what 
is likely to continue happening. In this he stands with a 
whole generation of novelists whose anarchic violence is 
a response - possibly feeble, but also based on truth - to 
a world dominated by anarchic violence. 

Most readers, and many critics, have noticed that this 
post-Holocaust literature is painful. Moreover, the 
better the writer, the harder it is to endure the writing. 
Lawrence L. Langer writes: 

. . . perhaps never before in the history of literature have 
authors had to fight a reader reluctance based not on an 
inability to understand what they are about - this has been the 
initial fate of Ulysses, The Sound and the Fury, and Waiting for 
Godot, for example - but on the alleged assumption of the 
reader that he understood it only too well, that there is little 
need to burden the human imagination with further morbid 
explorations of a horrible reality which anyone with a long 
memory or a diligent curiosity is already acquainted with.* 

The human mind, instinctively working in its own 
defence, rejects what it cannot bear; and the truth about 
recent human history is quite literally, in psychic terms, 
unbearable. We can handle only a little of it; some of us 
can handle almost none. 

This is a more simple-minded version of the implicit 
demand for silence that the critic George Steiner sets 
forth - half-seriously, but at least that - in Language of 

Silence. Surveying the literature of recent decades, he 
finds that the writers as well as the readers have turned 
away from the Holocaust and the events related to it. 
"It is as if the complication, pace, and political enormity 
of our age had bewildered and driven back the 
confident master-builder's imagination of classic liter- 
ature and the nineteenth-century novel." He suggests 
that "We cannot pretend that Belsen is irrelevant to the 
responsible life of the imagination. What man has 
inflicted on man, in very recent times, has afl'ected the 
writer's primary material - the sum and potential of 
human behaviour - and it presses on the brain with a 
new darkness." Language itself is degraded by the 
enormity of the age, he suggests, and possibly the only 
honest response is silence: "The world of Auschwitz lies 
outside speech as it lies outside reason."' 

Elie Wiesel is one of those who chose not to be silent; 
in his classic Night he provided a widely influential 
account of a boy's life in a concentration camp. Wiesel's 
early life was spent in comparative security, in an 
atmosphere of predictability. Then he was taken to 
Auschwitz and, as he tells us, was changed forever. 
"The student of the Talmud, the child that I was, had 
been consumed in the flames. TTiere remained only a 
shape that looked like me. A dark flame had entered 
into my soul and devoured it." He survived, and took it 
upon himself to bear witness, and in the process 
produced a masterpiece of - well, of violence, among 
other things. At one point he tells us how three 
prisoners, two men and a boy, were accused of sabotage 
by the camp guards. They were hanged before 
thousands of inmates. Then the prisoners were forced to 
march past the dangling bodies: 

The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung 
swollen, blue-tinged. But the third rope was still moving; being 
so light, the child was still alive . . . 

For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between 
life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we 
had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I 
passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were 
not yet glazed. 

Behind me, I heard a man asking: 

'Where is God now?' 

And I heard a voice within me answer him: 

'Where is He? Here He is - he is hanging here on this 
gallows . . .' 

That night the soup tasted of corpses.'" 
The American critic Robert Alter has commented: 
The novels of Elie Wiesel strike me as a singularly impressive 
instance of how the creative imagination can surprise our 
expectations of what its limits should be. It is natural enough 
to wonder whether it is really possible to write about the 
Holocaust, to use the wntten word, which by its very nature is 
committed to order, as a means of representing and as.sessing 
absolute moral chaos. With this awesome difliculty in mind, 
the British critic, A. Alvarez, has suggested that any adequate 
writing on the Holocaust must be in some way anti-realistic, 
fracturing reality intojumbled splmters, as in fact the Nazi 


horror fractured the moral world which people used to imagine 
. . . The achievement, however, otKlie Wiesel's five published 
books remmds us of the danger in issumg prescriptions about 
things i)f the spirit. He has managed to realize the terrible past 
imaginatively, with growing artistic strength in a narrative 
form that is consecutive, coherent, and, at least on the surface, 
realistic ..." 

But a great many other writers have asked the question: 
if this is reaHty - if the Holocaust and napalm in 
Vietnam and forcible imprisonments in mental hospitals 
in Russia are reality - then what is left for fiction? 

We could argue, if we still believed in the nineteenth- 
century master-builders of literature whom Steiner 
mentioned, that what is left for fiction is the systematic 
re-creation of an ordered world and a moral universe. 
For many, art has replaced religion. Why, then, cannot 
art provide some of the moral force of religion? But the 
implicit answer from some of the most distinguished 
writers of this period is that a disordered world can't 
call forth an orderly fiction - that the only honest 
reflection of real disorder is a fictional disorder. It may 
be given an aesthetic shape, but it can hardly call on a 
morality that the world has ceased to live by and can 
barely even remember. Perhaps that morality never 
really existed - perhaps Alter is right when, following 
Alvarez, he calls it "the moral world which people used 
to imagine". In any case, real or imagined, it has disap- 
peared in the rubble of the country, leaving behind 
some ghostly shadows of itself and a sense of 
irredeemable loss. 

The American novelist Jerome Charyn - who is. like 
all serious novelists, at heart still a moralist - describes 
the present world and fiction's peculiar place in it: 
Terror is now the norm ... In a murderous, mechanical 
society, love and death have become interchangeable . . . 
(Literature is now necessarily) the language of hysteria . . . 
Whatever place the black humorists ultimately hold in our 
literature, they have shown us the brittleness of the human 
heart and have warned us of the emptiness we will have to 
endure in a society that has devoted itself to hate rather than to 

Against that view, it can be argued that at many points 
in history, conditions like those Charyn mentions were 
part of life. Terror was the norm in the French Revolu- 
tion. Society was murderous in the slave camps of the 
nineteenth century. The industrial revolution in Britain 
and elsewhere must have seemed inhumanly mechan- 
ical. None of these periods gave rise to the kind of 
pervasively violent and sickening literature that is close 
to being the norm in the present period. 

The difference is in scale and in perception: 

( 1 ) Scale: There was never anything before on the 
scale of the Nazi death camps; there was never anything 
so horrifying as atomic warfare, nothing so massive as 
the Soviet slave camps has ever been designed before. 

(2) Perception: Today we are condemned to 
knowledge of horror. Perhaps only a few imaginative 
persons in England (aside from soldiers themselves) 
knew how terrible World War I was; but all of us, 
watching television, knew some of the worst details of 

Vietnam. And while Charles Dickens knew there were 
slave camps, he never saw a film of one. The writers of 
today live with the monstrousness of our times engraved 
on their imaginations by film and still photo. Which is 
why a black humorist may insist, as Charyn does, that 
terror is the norm. In his own life, in fact, it is quite 
likely not the norm; but in his knowledge of contem- 
porary life, it most certainly is. 

It is this knowledge of an endless horror stretching 
beneath the sometimes placid surface of the modern 
city that informs the work of writers as difi"erent as 
William Burroughs and Hubert Selby Jr. Burroughs 
writes a jumpy, nervous kind of surrealistic prose, 
moving anxiously and unpredictably from scene to 
scene, whereas Selby works in a close-to-orthodox 
narrative style. But they both present the same 
nightmare world in which all illusions have been 
destroyed and all hope of authentic love has vanished. 

Burroughs' characters, their minds and bodies rotted 
by narcotics, live in dread of a police state that is 
omnipresent but never quite real. They seem always to 
be looking over their shoulders for the spy or policeman 
waiting to kill them. WTien violence finally occurs in 
Burroughs, it has the pace of a slow-motion film. His 
most famous and most widely praised novel. The Naked 
Lunch, is an addict's nightmare of pursuit, violence, and 
escape. At one point the narrator is being arrested by 
two policemen, and fights back: 

I squirted a thin jet of alcohol, whipping it across his eyes with 
a sideways shake of the syringe. He let out a bellow of pain. I 
could see him pawing at his eyes with the left hand like he was 
tearing off an invisible bandage as I dropped to the floor on 
one knee, reaching for my suitcase. I pushed the suitcase open, 
and my left hand closed over the gun butt - I am nghthanded 
but I shoot with my left hand. I felt the concussion of Hau.ser's 
shot before I heard it. His slug slammed into the wall behind 
me. Shooting from the floor, I snapped two quick shots into 
Hauser's belly where his vest had pulled up showing an inch of 
white shirt. He grunted in a way I could feel and doubled 
forward. Stiff with panic, O'Brien's hand was tearing at the gun 
in his shoulder holster. I clamped on my other hand around my 
gun wrist to steady it for the long pull - this gun has the 
hammer filed off round so you can only use it double action - 
and shot him in the middle of his red forehead about two 
inches below the silver hairline. His hair had been grey the last 
time I saw him. That was about 15 years ago. My first arrest. 
His eyes went out. He fell off the chair onto his face. My hands 
were already reaching for what I needed, sweeping my 
notebooks into a briefcase with my works, junk, and a box of 
shells. I stuck the gun into my belt, and stepped out into the 
corridor. . ." 

The Naked Lunch - which John Ciardi called "a master- 
piece of its own genre - a monumentally moral descent 
into the hell of narcotics addiction"'-* - is vastly more 
than a documentary on the inner life of a junkie. 
Burroughs takes narcotics addiction, and the hallucina- 
tions that attend it. as a metaphor of contemporary city 
life: its desperation, its meaninglessness. its intrinsic 
and endless violence. Anthony Burgess has called 
Burroughs' work "a kind of mad science fiction, liter- 


ature as a total release from the bondages of gravity and 
inhibition alike, sometimes baffling, often 

And that comment, particularly the last word, suggest 
some of the quality of the violence-charged fiction that 
is now so widespread: it is exhilarating precisely 
because it faces the truth of existence rather than hiding 
it behind euphemism and symbol. No matter how 
painful, truth carries with it a charge of intensity that 
can be richly satisfying and this accounts for the fact 
that the writers discussed here, while they began in 
obscurity and were initially unpopular, have won 
sizeable audiences and great respect from their peers. 

The fiction of Hubert Selby Jr. - of which his first 
book, Lasi Exit to Brooklyn, is still the best known - 
presents a world of brutalized and uncaring men and 
women who treat each other, within their own context, 
as badly as Nazi guards treated the concentration camp 
inmates. Selby's urban American slum dwellers live 
close to the edge of total violence. They rape and beat 
each other. Their sexuality is expressed in terms of 
outright violence and exploitation. One story, Tralala, 
presents a gang of teenagers who are using a prostitute 
and, in the wildness of their drunken emotions, move as 
if by casual accident from sex to violence: 

. . . she lay there naked on the seat and their shadows hid her 
pimples and scabs and she drank flipping her tits with the other 
hand and somebody shoved the beer can against her mouth 
and they all laughed and Tralala cursed and spit out a piece of 
tooth and someone shoved it again and they laughed and 
yelled and the next one mounted her and her lips were split this 
time and the blood trickled to her chin and someone mopped 
her brow with a beer-soaked handkerchief and another can of 
beer was handed to her and she drank and yelled about her tits 
and another tooth was chipped and the split in her lips was 
widened and everyone laughed and she laughed and she drank 
more and more and soon she passed out and they slapped her a 
few times and she mumbled and turned her head . . . "> 

First sex is a game, then violence is a game, and by 
the end of a long and powerful paragraph, Tralala is left 
for dead. The effect is that of raw, hard-edged poetry; 
the mood conveyed is moral desolation - and yet, again, 
a bitter truth, buttressed by a firm and accurate style. 
Josephine Hendin has summed up Selby's work, and in 
the process said a great deal about this approach to 

This is Selby's vision of a culture's bedrock psyche, a portrait 
of an American mind ^one the limit (italics added) in its 
acceptance of cruelty as life's only fixed principle. Selby 
perceives pain, whether inflicted or felt, as the basic bond 
between people. If he does not gloat over the cruelty he 
describes, Selby nevertheless sees nothing else, nothing but the 
terror of those dismal, festering characters who spring from his 
imagination so fully formed in their vileness. He does write of 
them with love, with an energy and purity of style that is 
absolute in its insistence on your glimmer of recognition and 
assent: is their life yours? Whether it is or not, reading Selby is 
like being mugged." 

But it is also more than that Selby, having created his 

characters in all their pathetic ugliness, seems to reach 
out and forgive them. "Selby's genius is that he compels 
us to feel", Dotson Rader'* has suggested, and this, if 
not genius, is at least a large accomplishment. His work 
implies that we must accept the existence of endless 
violence in his characters, and yet feel for them despite 
our knowledge of what they are. 

Because they are like us. Or, at least, they resemble the 
part of "us" that is atavistically violent and uncontroll- 
able, that still connects with the pre-civilized impulses 
we have covered over with a sheen of social restraint. 
Norman Mailer is a novelist who asks us to go further 
than Selby - he asks us not to look at his characters and 
sympathize; rather, he suggests that we identify with the 
violent impulses and actions of his protagonists. He 
does this most spectacularly mAn American Dream. His 
central figure and narrator, Steve Rojack, murders his 
wife, exults in it, and spends the rest of the novel 
escaping the consequences. For Rojack, murder is a 
release - from the psychic pressures of his successful 
life, from the cancerous poisons of resentment and self- 
hatred, from the threat of encroaching middle age, from 
his rage at women. In the murder scene, his wife tells 
him she doesn't love him, and immediately he feels lost: 
"I had opened a void - I was now without a center. Can 
you understand? I did not belong to myself any longer. 
Deborah had occupied my center."'^ She then taunts 
him by telling him of her lovers and the sex acts she has 
performed with them. He strikes her brutually, and she 
fights back by trying to grasp his penis. He goes into a 
frenzy that begins in violent rage and ends in a kind of 

I struck her a blow on the back of the neck, a dead cold chop 
which dropped her to a knee, and then hooked an arm about 
her head and put a pressure on her throat . . . For a moment I 
did not know if I could hold her down . . . For ten or 20 
seconds she strained in balance, and then her strength began to 
pass, it passed over to me, and I felt my arm tightening about 
her neck. My eyes were closed. I had the mental image I was 
pushing with my shoulder against an enormous door which 
would give inch by inch to the effort. 

One of her hands fluttered up to my shoulder and tapped it 
gently. Like a gladiator admitting defeat, I released the 
pressure on her throat, and the door I had been opening began 
to close. But I had had a view of what was on the other side of 
the door, and heaven was there, some quiver of jewelled cities 
shining in the glow of a tropic dust, and I thrust against the 
door once more and hardly felt her hand leave my shoulder, I 
was driving now with force against that door: spasms began to 
open in me, and my mind cried out then, 'Hold back! You're 
going too far, hold back!' I could feel a series of orders whip 
like tracers of light from my head to arm. I was ready to obey, I 
was trying to stop, but pulse packed behind pulse in a pressure 
up to thunderhead: .some black-billed lust, some desire to go 
ahead not unlike the instant one comes in a woman against her 
cry that she is without protection came bursting with rage out 
of me and my mind exploded in a fireworks of rockets, stars, 
and hurtling embers, the arm about her neck leaped against the 
whisper I could still feel murmuring in her throat, and crack I 
choked her harder, and crack I choked her again and crack I 
gave her payment - never halt now and crack the door flew 


open and the wire tore in her throat, and I was through the 
door, haired passing from me m after wave, illness as well, rot 
and pestilence, nausea - I was floating - 1 was weary with a 
most honorable fatigue and my flesh seemed new. I had not felt 
so nice since I was twelve . . .'" 

The scene is as morally repellent as any in recent 
literature; it is also as powerful as any that Mailer, in a 
remarkable career, has produced. It makes violence into 
a perverse kind of poetry, and invites us to join the 
murderer in his joy. It thus represents a climax in the 
literature of violence, and in the acceptance of the 
ultimate immorality as a part of emotional life in which 
the reader is asked to share. 

The violence Mailer depicts, however much it may 
reflect modern history, is a personal violence. But there 
is also in much recent fiction a strain of revolutionary 
violence, in which the author calls the readers to action 
in a struggle that will be profoundly violent. The 
French-Canadian separatist novelist Hubert Aquin, for 
instance, has a character speak glowingly of a future 
filled with violence: 

It will be time to strike, in the back if possible. The time will 
have come to kill and to organize destruction by the ancient 
doctrines of strife and the anonymous guns of the guerrilla! It 
will be time to replace parliamentary battles with real ones. 
After two centuries of agony, we will burst out in disordered 
violence, in an uninterrupted series of attacks and shocks, the 
black fulfillment of a project of total love . . . 

In this, Aquin reflects the often-expressed view of 
extreme New Lett writers in the United States and in 
the Third World - that freedom can be achieved only 
by violence, and that this violence is an expression of 

An audience of a certain size was ready for writers 
like Kosinski, Selby and Mailer before they produced 
their books. It was prepared for them not only by the 
great public acts of violence we have all lived through 
(in imagination, if not in fact) but also by the transfor- 
mation of our collective view of our private selves that 
began around the time of the World War I. This trans- 
formation proceeded from the writings of Sigmund 
Freud and all those who followed, adapted, plagiarized, 
and interpreted his works. Freud, in his Oedipus and 
Elektra theories, suggested plainly that murder was 
within all of us; and this point of view, as it spread first 
through the medical profession and then through avant- 
garde literature and finally through the mass media, 
became one of the governing ideas of our culture - as 
pervasive for us as the religious ideas of previous centu- 
ries. As W.H. Auden describes Freud's influence 
To us he is no more a person 
Now but a whole climate of opinion 
Under whom we conduct our differing lives:^^ 
Freud saw the story of the king who killed his father 
and married his mother as the archetypal human 
drama, the expression of our most deeply buried wishes. 
He saw this first in himself, in his famous self-analysis. 
Then he saw it in humankind - both men and women. 

m different forms - and finally by the forces of his 
persuasive brilliance he imposed his view on western 
civilization. As he stated it: 

1 have found love of the mother and jealousy of the father in 
my own case too, and now believe it to be a general 
phenomenon of early childhood ... the gripping power of 
Oedipus Rex. in spite of all the rational objections to the 
inexorable fate that the story pre-supposes, becomes intelligible 
. . . the Greek myth seizes on a compulsion which everyone 
recognizes because he has felt traces of it in himself. Every 
member of the audience was once a budding Oedipus in 
phantasy, and this dream-fulfillment played out in reality 
causes everyone to recoil in horror . . ." 

Not any more: or at least, not so much anymore. 
Because by now we who nave lived through both the 
Age of Freud and the Age of Auschwitz accept as part 
of literature that innate violence which is so clearly and 
so permanently a part of life. 



1 Joseph Epstein, "A Talk with Saul Bellow," The New York 
Times Book Review, December 5, 1976, pp. 3-92-93. 

2 Stanley Kunitz, "Art and Order," Dialogue, Vol. 9, 1976, No. 
3, p. 79. 

3 Robert Jay Lifton, Boundaries: Psychological Man in 
Revolution (New York: Random House, 1969), p. 33. 

4 Jean-Paul Sartre, What is Literature? Quoted in Anthony 
Burgess, The Novel Now (London: Faber and Faber, 1967), 
p. 182. 

5 John Fraser, Violence in the Arts (London: Cambridge 
University Press, 1974), pp. 155-156. 

6 Jerzy Kosinski, Coc^/)U (New York: Bantam Books, 1976), 
pp. 246, 255-257. 

7 Jerzy Kosinski, 4 July 1968, in an interview quoted in 
Lawrence L. Langer, The Holocaust and the Literary 
Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 
1975), p. 174-5. 

8 Langer, op. cit., p. 91. 

9 George Steiner, Language of Silence (New York: Atheneum, 
1966). pp. 7-123-4. 

10 Elie Wiesel, Night, translated by Stella Rodway (New York: 
Hill and Wang, 1960), p. 71. 

1 1 Robert Alter, After the Tradition: Essays on Modern Jewish 
Writing i^ev/ York: Dutton, 1969), p. 151 

12 Jerome Chary n in his introduction to The Single Voice, quoted 
in Alfred Kazin, Bright Book of Life: American Novelists and 
Storytellers from Hemingway to Mailer (Boston: Little, Brown, 
1973), p. 259. 

13 William Burroughs, The Naked Lunch (Paris: The Olympia 
Press, 1959), pp. 202-3. 

14 John Ciardi, Saturday Review, June 27, 1959. 

15 Burgess, op. cit., p. 189. 

16 Hubert Selby Jr., Last Exit to Brooklyn (London: Calder and 
Boyars, 1968), p. 82. 

17 Josephine Hendin, "Angries; S-M as a Literary Style," 
Harper's. February, 1974, pp. 87-93 

18 Dolson Rader, The New York Times Book Review, December 
12, 1971, pp. 28-9. 

19 Norman Mailer, An American Dream (New York: The Dial 
Press, 1965), p. 27. 

20 Mailer, op. cit., pp. 30-32. 

21 Hubert Aquin, Prochain Episode, translated by Penny 
Williams. (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1967), p. 124. 

22 "In Memory of Sigmund Freud (d.Sept.l939)," The Collected 
Poetry of W.H. Auden (New York: Random House,1945), 

p. 163. 

23 Sigmund Freud, The Origins of Psycho- Analysis. Letters to 
Wilhelm Fliess. Drafts and Notes; J 887-1 902, edited by Marie 
Bonaparte, Anna Freud, Ernst Kris; translated by Eric 
Mosbacher and James Strachey (New York: Basic Books, 
1957), pp. 223-4. 



in the Literature 

of Children 

and Young Adults 

Claire England 

Faculty of Library Science 
University of Toronto 


Chapter 1 Introduction Page 117 

2 Children's Reading 119 

3 Children's Imagination and Folklore 124 

4 Mother Goose 127 

5 Folk and Fairy Tales 132 

6 Illustration 138 

7 The Realistic Novel 149 

8 Summary and Conclusion 155 

References 157 

Chapter One 


This paper is concerned with the depiction of violence 
in some areas of literature created especially for 
children and adolescents. Children's literature exists 
almost independently of children - they do not produce 
it or criticize it; they do not even always read widely 
within the material written especially for them. Children 
are taught to read at about the age of six; a scant half- 
dozen years later they are eager to leave children's 
books behind and to move on to participate in adult 

In this study, children's reading preferences and 
habits are first discussed in some detail, to provide a 
dbntext for the examination of their literature. 

In a society of mass communication, a medium such 
as television - which requires only passive participation 

- which involves an active interaction with print 

- may easily become dominant, while a medium such as 
reading- which involves an active interaction with 
print - may become subordinate. Reading is a skill 
children's ability to read may be at such a low level that 
it is virtually impossible for them to have an interest in 

Personal inclination and, sometimes, deficient skills 
are responsible for perpetuating a preference for 
reading material of little literary or artistic merit. 
Material that primarily bases its appeal on plot, with 
Httle regard for style, characterization, setting, and so 
on, is often preferred. The sentimental interlude, the 
mysterious plot, the violent episode are exploited in the 
effort to satisfy a demand that - if successful - the 
product also creates. Ease of reading and an enter- 
taining strong story line are important factors in the 
appeal of books to young children. When they first 
begin to appreciate stories, and first begin to read for 
themselves, they are too young to be nostalgic, too 
immature to be contemplative, and too unskilled to be 
discriminating. Children respond immediately and 
directly to the dramatic emphases in their own literature 
and in the mass culture of their environment. Their 
reading, their language and lore, and their imaginations 
in some measure reflect the presence of elements of 

The first body of literature many children meet 

includes the nursery tales from Mother Goose and from 
the realm of fairy and folk lore. Generations old. the 
accretions of nursery stories interest sociologists and 
psychologists for the insights they present into social 
organization and the human psyche. Adult literature 
draws upon the mythological motifs present in this lore, 
and this anonymous hterature faithfully preserves those 
elements that children find useful. These timeless tales 
and the simple stories created especially for children are 
directed toward both the cognitive and affective 
domains of learning. 

Illustration plays an obvious role in children's books. 
Pictures clarify symbols and situations, and pictures 
may also be related to the violent content of the litera- 
ture. Illustrated books are those in which the illustra- 
tions carry the story. In both types, the violent activity 
can be emphasized or softened by the illustrations. The 
role of illustration in relation to violence in children's 
books is considered in some detail in this paper. 

A picture book is the child's first introduction to 
reading. The pictures often show the world of Mother 
Goose or introduce the fantastic land where animals are 
people and fairies may suddenly appear. 

It was not possible in this paper to consider all areas 
of children's literature. Among the areas that have been 
ignored are the anthropomorphic stories written by 
individual authors for young children. Numerous 
examples come to mind: the Paddington Bear and Dr. 
Seuss series, the delightful tales of Beatrix Potter. Hans 
Christian Andersen, and Oscar Wilde. These stories all 
could be examined for elements of violence, which 
many of them contain in var\ing degrees. However, 
these works were not included in the study because of 
external constraints and because many authors, being 
consciously aware of the vulnerability that goes with the 
age of their audience, are very careful about the 
material they present to children. Violence, when it 
occurs in these first fantasies, may well be a minor note 
in a coherent composition, presented to serve a purpose. 
Some modern writers who have used violent themes are 
mentioned in the chapter on illustration, but the long- 
established authors who have made a controlled use of 


violence in the first stories given to children have not 
been considered. 

Young children are eager to read their first books. 
Fairy tales and simple stories come into children's lives 
at a time when they are particularly receptive to stories 
but have not yet developed preferences in reading. 
These preferences, however, are not long in developing; 
for that reason, this paper does not consider certain 
areas such as science fiction, mythology, westerns, or 
mysteries. Reading in these categories tends to be from 
strong personal preference. 

Mythology, for example, is the literature of archetype 
and the repository of a cultural heritage. Mythology as 
expressed in short tales and in epic literature contains 
much violence. The physical violence is often couched 
in extravagant terms, while the psychological violence 
may be layered in symbol. A study of classical and 
northern mythology would reveal many examples of 
covert and overt violence, but this mythology is not 
widely read by children. Girls who read well may 
develop an early interest in mythology, just as boys who 
read well and widely may develop an interest in science 
fiction, but these categories of reading are minority 
pursuits among young adolescents. 

Most children pursue a narrower course in their 
reading. As food for their fantasy lives, their preference 
may be for comic books. As food for their intellectual 
and emotional lives, their reading may be extended in 
juvenile novels, junior versions of adult novels. A later 
chapter deals with the realistic junior novel, a genre that 
came into its own in the 1960s, with the swell of publi- 
cation for a waiting adolescent market. At the same 
time that adolescents are reading these junior novels, 
they are also reading the literature produced for the 
adult market. Evidence of this is presented in the 
chapter on children's reading. 

In a span of five to seven years, children review the 
body of literature written especially for them. If they do 
not have guidance in that review, they may overlook 
material that would promote intellectual and emotional 
growth, material that would help them develop an 
acceptable value system, stressing concepts of respect 
for the individual and of responsibility for society. 
Instead, children may read extensively from material 
that presents violence as a universally appropriate and 
attractive solution to problems. 

As a didactic purpose underlies much of the material 
given to children or adolescents, a moral judgment is 
often placed on the display of violence. The danger is 
that the value judgment is not internalized, or even 
realized, by the children. The moral tag is sometimes so 
submerged as to be lost in the description of violence. 
The danger lies, then, not in presenting violence, but in 
advocating it by repeated example as redress and 
resolution for many situations. 

Violence has its place in the literature of childhood as 
in the literature of adulthood. But violence in literature 
should not teach the child to be violent, nor to accept or 

expect violence; rather, the literature should teach the 
child to control violence and to relegate it to an appro- 
priate position. Literature should help children to 
distinguish these facets of violence. How successfully 
and to what extent the literature read by children and 
adolescents does this is another question. 


Chapter Two 

Children's Reading 

The reading abilities and habits of children and adoles- 
cents have been assessed in numerous studies. The 
conclusions drawn after sifting the evidence might be 
that children generally do not read as much or as well as 
they did one or two generations ago, nor do they read as 
many books of literary value. However, comparison of 
children's reading habits in the 1930s, the 1950s, and the 
1970s cannot be made directly because of changes in 
the patterns of education and the emergence of alterna- 
tives of literary pursuit - mass paperbacks, comic 
books, television, the recording industry, and organized 
sports for youngsters. Thus the conclusions about 
comparative studies in reading must be open to quahfi- 

A government report, A Language for Life, issued in 
the United Kingdom in 1975, stated that: 

There is no firm evidence upon which to base comparison 
between standards of English today and those of before the 
war, and comparisons ventured are sometimes based on 
questionable assumptions. Nevertheless, standards of reading 
and writing need to be raised to fulfil the increasingly exacting 
demands made upon them by modern society.' 

This report was concerned with literacy, and it did 
admit that literacy was not increasing and that, among 
certain children 1 1 years old and under, it was in all 
probability declining.^ Literacy means more than an 
ability to read; it is the ability to comprehend that 
which is read. Reading is a thinking process, more than 
just an exercise in identifying shapes, and it requires a 
diet that will provide nutritional values. 

The Commission of Inquiry that produced A 
Language for Life made use of a report by F. Whitehead 
et al., prepared for the Schools Council on the subject of 
children's reading interests.^ Whitehead, in turn, dupli- 
cated an earlier study by A. Jenkinson, done in 1930s, 
in order to indicate development of reading taste over 
time. As both of these studies concerned a preference in 
reading rather than research into the ability to read, a 
brief summation is pertinent here. 

In 1938, A.J. Jenkinson conducted a leisure-time 
reading survey among 3,000 adolescents, aged 12 to 16, 
in urban schools of east central England.'^ He included 
only students in "A" (good) streams in the schools, who 

were presumed therefore to read well and to have 
literary tastes. This was done to forestall the charge of 
examining the literary taste of the non-literary. Contem- 
porary research would be concerned with the aspect of 
the non-literary taste and its effect in the classroom 
today. Teachers of English literature in the 1960s and 
1970s have had to cope with increased numbers of 
uninterested students who have had their formal 
education requirements deliberately lengthened from 
pre-war times. Jenkinson, in those pre-war days, found 
that boys and girls read novels written for adults. He 
asked youngsters to list books they had read over the 
previous month. The hst of titles they mentioned is 
quite astonishing. The volunteered reading is very like a 
list published in the U.S. by the National Council of 
Teachers of English as recommended preparation for 
college entrance in the humanities. These children were 
given time to think about their hsts before they 
submitted them to their teachers, so there may have 
been an inclination to note "acceptable" choices as well 
as other choices. Defoe, Dickens, R.L. Stevenson. 
Charlotte Bronte, and Thomas Hughes appeared again 
and again as favourite authors. Sir Walter Scott, John 
Buchan, H. Rider Haggard, O.K. Chesterton, Edgar 
Allan Poe and H.G. Wells were also frequently named. 

The girls indicated a greater range of both author and 
reading material than did the boys. They put 
Remarque's y4// Quiet on the Western Front and T.E. 
Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom alongside childhood 
books such as Grahame's Wind in the Willows. 
Kingsley's Water Babies and Anna Sewell's Black 
Beauty. Girls also tended to hold on to their childhood 
longer than boys: they included the occasional fairy 
tale, such as Ruskin's King of the Golden River and 
Kiping's Jungle Books. 

The reading of these children would not appear to be 
a cause for concern. Yet there was concern, particularly 
about the adolescent boys. Teachers and parents were 
afraid that cinema-going and the reading o'[ much 
worthless trash would lead to future worthlessness and 
irresponsibility. The interest of boys in reading myste- 
ries, cheap thrillers, and stories with aggressive action 
was noted. The specific worthless trash referred to was 


"bloods" or comic papers. The British term "bloods" 
refers to the story papers or magazines published for 
boys, containing swashbuckling adventure and ghastly 
tales - in short, an ample supply of blood, guts, and 
gore. These magazines ran the gamut from Boy's Own 
Paper through the prototypes of the comics that caused 
such consternation in the 1950s on both sides of the 
Atlantic. "Bloods" were also read by girls, but with less 
avid interest; they preferred magazines published 
expressly for them - magazines which stressed the 
domestic, romantic, or school story in which violence 
and direct aggressive action play a much smaller role. 
The boys reported as most popular those magazines in 
which most violence occurred (Comic Cuts, Magnet, 
Wizard). Less popular were those papers (Boy's Own 
Paper, Scout, Rainbow) considered by adults to combine 
violent action with such redeeming factors as independ- 
ence, courage, and patriotism - magazines that satisfied 
the appetite for violence in a more palatable way. 

As for the effects of cinema-going, Jenkinson found 
that the cinema was the most accessible cultural 
product and that it had a strong interest for children. A 
third of the sample went to the cinema once a week, but 
the study could derive no firm indications of a 
connection between reading and cinema attendance. 
These children did not indicate that movies increased or 
decreased their appetite for reading. It seemed to 
Jenkinson, on the basis of his data, that good readers 
read everything from "bloods" through more standard 
literature, while poor readers tended only to read comic 
magazines - and those to a lesser degree than the avid 
readers. His conclusions foreshadowed what more 
rigorous statistical analysis of post-war years was to 
determine about consumption of media generally and 
reading habits in particular. Jenkinson's study was done 
at a time when there was also widespread interest in 
researching the reading habits of children and adults in 
the United States. Similar conclusions were being 
drawn there. 

Since the 1930s, there have been several additional 
factors to influence children's reading habits. Certain 
social and cultural habits have seemed likely to 
diminish the importance of reading as a recreational 
pursuit. The increased affluence and mobility of many 
families has meant that recreational interests more 
expensive than reading could be pursued. The advent of 
television has been the single most significant factor, 
and it has increased the effects of film on the habit of 
reading. In mitigation of these factors, there has been an 
increase in the amount of publishing specifically for 
children and juveniles. The paperback revolution of the 
1950s made both adult andjuvenile titles readily 
available in a mass market. Public libraries grew and, 
significantly for children, school libraries became more 
and more common. These libraries support the 
curriculum and also provide a wide range of recrea- 
tional reading. 

Jenkinson's study was repeated on a broader base 

and wider scale by F. Whitehead et al., in Children's 
Reading Interests, published in 1975. Whitehead's team 
sent a questionnaire to 7,800 children between the ages 
of 10 and 15. The survey concluded that children were 
reading fewer books in the 1970s than they had read in 
the late 1930s. Jenkinson had found that his respon- 
dents - achieving students - read between four and six 
books a month, but the 1975 survey found represent- 
ative students reading only about three books a month. 
This diminished figure of book reading corresponds 
with the findings of Hilde Himmelweit in the mid-1950s 
in one of the seminal studies of the effect of television 
on reading. 5 

Whitehead's team found that fewer adult titles 
involving long narrative were reported, and that junior 
novels and titles in series had emerged as popular 
choices. Old favourites such as Black Beauty, Treasure 
Island, Little Women, Robinson Crusoe and The Wind in 
the Willows occurred on the lists as did a number of 
titles designated as juvenile non-quality narratives. The 
non-quality author most often mentioned was Enid 
Blyton, a British author who produced over 200 titles on 
the artistic level of The Bobbsey Twins. Authors writing 
for the adult market also interested youngsters. Alistair 
MacLean. Ian Fleming, and Alfred Hitchcock, repre- 
sented as favourite authors by the respondents, were 
listed by the investigators as producing non-quality 
reading. Non-quality was also the designation given to 
books like Sex and Savagery of Hell's Angels by Jan 
Hudson and Skinhead by Richard Allen, books named 
as popular reading by teens in the mid-1970s. 

While the frequency of book reading has declined, 
the frequency of comic book reading apparently has 
not; it constitutes the greatest proportion of magazine 
reading. This popular reading habit includes, for girls, 
an extension into pop music and romance magazines. 
The Whitehead report concludes that while most 
children between the ages of 10 and 15 regularly read a 
number of comics, and many read some books, there is 
a sizeable minority of both sexes who do not read any 
books in their leisure time. This minority increases with 
age until, at age 14 and over, nearly a third of the girls 
and 40 per cent of the boys are not interested in 

Canadian experience bears out the reading patterns 
uncovered in both American and British studies. L.F. 
Ashley, in Children's Reading and the 1970s discusses the 
results of a questionnaire circulated to 1500 children in 
grades four to seven in the Vancouver area.* Twenty per 
cent of the sample gave mysteries and adventure stories 
as preferred choices for leisure-time reading. Other 
choices were ghost tales, comics, horse and animal 
stories, followed by Nancy Drew books for girls and the 
Hardy Boys series for boys. Science fiction and humour 
and joke books were afso popular. Boys demonstrated 
the greatest interest in any mention of sports books; 
they were also interested in adventure stories, mysteries, 
thrillers, ghost stories, and war books. The Hardy Boys, 


intrepid sleuths, are generally involved in solving some 
mystery in a fast-paced plot. The counterpart for girls, 
Nancy Drew, is a more genteel but equally intrepid 
problem solver. Nancy unravels legal problems with 
more inspiration than her lawyer-father. The occasional 
kidnapping or struggle, to which either Nancy or a 
Hardy boy is more than equal, is the level of violence 
presented in these series. Girls are attracted to 
adventure stories, and they read ghost stories and 
mysteries on a par with boys. Their interest in comics 
declines with age, and they are not as interested in 
humour or joke books. Girls substitute stories about 
animals, fairy tales, and myths or legends; and as they 
reach the pre-teen years, an interest in romance or pop 
stars develops. The top 50 most remembered books 
were listed; these titles were choices given more than 
twice. Of these choices, 23 were series books - The 
Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Cherry A mes, Trixie Belden, 
The Power Boys, and so on. Few classics of children's 
Hterature, such as Tom Sawyer, Little Women, and Black 
Beauty, were named. Jack London's Call of the Wild 
and Stevenson's Treasure Island are perennial choices. 
The children also mentioned as favourite reading, the 
"James Bond" books. The Dirty Dozen, Batman, and 
Crazy Horse. Children in grades six and seven reported 
remembering best Mutiny on the Bounty, The Rise and 
Fall of Adolf Hitler, Sand Pebbles, Sink the Bismarck, 
Michener's Hawaii, Life of Hitler, Rise and Fall of the 
Third Reich, Hell's Angels, Lord of the Flies, and She. 

There was little congruence with either the British or 
American listings from pre-war research on reading. 
The interest in adult titles was apparent, and there was a 
diminishing interest in children's literature /^er^e. 
Terman and Lima, in Children's Reading, an American 
study from the 1930s, had produced a list of much more 
standard children's fare, cited by the children as their 
reading.' From comparison, it may be clearly seen that 
the 1930s favourites (all standard classics) had lost 
ground in readership, and only four titles maintained 
their popularity. These were Tom Sawyer, Black Beauty, 
Swiss Family Robinson, and The Jungle Book, although 
none were in the top 10 favourites in Ashley's 1970 
study. Seven young girls read and remembered warmly 
Little Women, but one little girl voted Jacqueline 
Susann's Valley of the Dolls, an adult best-seller of the 
1960s, as a memorable book from childhood. 

It is highly unlikely that the child borrowed Valley of 
the Dolls from the children's department of a public 
hbrary or from a school library. The book, which 
caused a minor censorship flurry at the time of publica- 
tion, received a full share of promotional advertising. It 
was made into a film and was widely available in 
paperback and through book-club distribution. The 
point is that, with less than adequate guidance, a child 
may have read widely and yet may have never read a 
significant book.* 

This statement is also supported in part by a 
Children 's Services Study done for the Regina Public 

Library in 1976 on the reading and televisicjn viewing 
habits of children.*^ A sample ofRegma school children 
were queried about their recreational and informational 
needs. The children, 540 in all, between the ages of six 
and 13, were interviewed by members of a research 
team. They were not asked to name specific books, 
although they sometimes did; rather, they were asked 
"What kinds of books do you read most often?" They 
gave a fiction choice four times more often than a non- 
fiction choice. Twenty-three per cent of the sample - 
122 of the 540 children - responded immediately that 
their favourite reading consisted of comics or humour 
magazines. Another 13 per cent preferred mysteries. 
The only category larger than mysteries or comics was 
an answer that was unspecified as to type (fiction/non- 
fiction), for example, "any stories about animals" or 
"stories about people, romance" et cetera. Following 
comics, humour or joke magazines, and mysteries, 
children name adventure stories, western, horror and 
monster tales, and series books as favourite reading. 

There are statistically significant sex-linked character- 
istics in reading which determine choices between 
fiction and non-fiction - girls read more fiction than do 
boys - and among the genres in fiction. Both sexes hked 
comic and horror tales. Girls, however, showed more 
interest in mysteries, mythology, and fairy tales than did 
boys. Boys were more interested in adventure stories, 
including police dramas and westerns, and in science 
fiction. Series books, once again Nancy Drew and The 
Hardy Boys, were chosen as favourites by both sexes. A 
favourite author was Alfred Hitchcock, a syndicated 
authorship that produces the popular The Three 
Investigators series for juveniles as well as mysteries for 
adults. Another favourite was Judy Blume, who writes 
junior novels for girls.'" 

Magazines were mentioned less frequently than 
books; noticeably absent from general cognizance were 
the magazines specifically published for children and 
juveniles. The most popular magazine read in Regina 
was The Canadian, which accompanies the Saturday 
edition of the newspapers. The Leader-Post. Some girls 
mentioned Miss Chatelaine; more read the adult 
magazine, Chatelaine. Boys named the occasional sports 
magazine. Children's interest in newspapers, like their 
interest in magazines, was low. Their newspaper reading 
most frequently reflected an interest in the comics and 
the television guide. 

The children surveyed in Regina. and in the Borough 
of York in Metropolitan Toronto, where this sur\ey was 
pretested, watched a lot of television. They equalled and 
exceeded the provincial averages of 12 hours per week 
for young children, a figure established in a research 
study produced for the Special Senate Committee on 
Mass Media." Thirty-three per cent of the sample 
reported that they watched television often, defined as 
three to five programs a day; another 45 per cent 
reported watching television always, defined as more 
than five programs a day. Estimating conservatively 


that a program is half an hour long, Regina children 
were watching television from 10'/2 to MVi hours weekly. 
Judging from the number of hour-long, and longer, 
programs named as favourites, this estimate does, 
indeed, seem conservative. Little of the television that 
children watched was educational; they reported 
watching adult programming in the evening hours, and 
cartoons and game shows televised at convenient hours 
for children - for example. The Flintsiones at lunch- 
time, and game shows at the supper hour. The amount 
of viewing reported does suggest that television is 
replacing books in the lives of some children. 

However, the evidence about the relative interest 
expressed in books and television is much more compli- 
cated than an either/or situation. Communications in 
Ontario, a 1 974 survey of public attitudes, documented 
the uneasiness felt by parents about the relationship 
between television and learning.'^ Although many 
adults feel that film is an excellent teacher, particularly 
for young children, it was suggested that "the educa- 
tional efficacy of television diminishes over time. 
Television may foster laziness and impede a child's 
development of basic learning and reading skills."'^ 
Parents thought that children became engrossed in 
viewing to the detriment of other activities, one of 
which was reading. It was concluded that books were 
unimportant to the 11- to 13-year-old children inter- 
viewed in this survey. 

As children approach the teen years, there is usually a 
diminution of interest in reading. More boys than girls 
are likely to stop reading entirely. The pre-teen years 
are also the years for peak television watching. 
Television plays an ambiguous role in relation to 
reading. It can displace reading, or some other activity, 
for some children, just as almost any other activity can 
displace reading. But television can also promote 
reading. The children in the Regina survey were asked if 
they had ever read a book because of a program on 
television.''* Overwhelmingly, they said they had. A 
number of children volunteered a particular title or 
titles that television had introduced. Many of these were 
books for adults - The Day of the Jackal, Airport, Jaws, 
and The Towering Inferno. Others were television 
spinoffs from favourite programs, such as Six Million 
Dollar Man, Star Trek, The Flintstones, The Partridge 
Family, Planet of the Apes, and Charlie Brown. 
Television was also responsible for an interest in Little 
House on the Prairie, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The 
Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Swiss Family Robinson, Anne of 
Green Gables, Oliver Twist, and animal stories such as 
Lassie and Black Beauty. Harkening back to the 
1930s and the pre-television era, it was noted that 
children who read many books also read many comics. 
In the 1970s, these children also apparently watch much 
television. Children who use one medium extensively 
are likely to consume all media in quantity. 

Perhaps because of mass media, including promo- 
tional advertising, as well as the pervasive presence of 

television and the paperback revolution, the gap - if one 
ever did exist - between adult and children's reading 
tastes has narrowed. The interest in reading peaks 
around Grade Five at about age 10. Thereafter, 
children's interest in reading may be diverted into other 
activities, or their preferences in reading tend to become 
concentrated. As they approach the teen years, children 
are less wiUing to experiment in reading widely. They 
rapidly move from the literature written especially for 
their level into the equivalent literature written for 
adults. The pursuit of mediocre reading at a child's level 
becomes the pursuit of mediocre reading at an adult's 

Mills and Boon, the British sister company to 
Harlequin Books in Canada, publishers of romantic 
novels for women, have reported that their average 
reader is becoming younger.'^ The company has done 
two surveys on readership, in 1968 and 1974. Reporting 
on overall steady upswing of sales, the company notes 
that the greatest increase in readership is among women 
between the ages of 19 and 24. Public libraries report 
many requests for these novels, published at the rate of 
eight a month. Young girls, about 15, are requesting 
these romances, which are harmless in the sense that 
they do not feature violence, pornography, or sexual 

Boys, to a much greater extent than girls, read the 
books that do contain violence or sadistic and porno- 
graphic elements. Such "mature" material is widely 
available, and the question is whether these mature 
elements produce trauma in certain children by 
disturbing a process of social and emotional matura- 
tion. Pamela Hansford Johnson, in considering the 
effect of the books owned and read by the young 
murderers in the British "Moors Murders" case of the 
1960s, asserts that a deleterious effect is amply 
demonstrated.'^ She agreed with the same principles of 
censorship that were later advocated in the report of the 
Longford Committee Investigating Pornography in 
Britain in 1972.'^ This report was controversial and it 
followed the equally controversial Report of the 
Commission on Obscenity and Pornography in the United 
States in 1970."* The presence of violence in the mass 
media (as violence related to pornography and 
obscenity) was the focus of these reports. The issue of 
censorship that such reports raise, and the application 
of censorship to the media consumption of juveniles are 
not, however, the direct concerns of this paper on the 
reading habits of young persons and the violent content 
of their literature. 

Children and adolescents do read material that is 
violent, and their vulnerability to reading material that 
is labelled "for mature readers" is worthy of considera- 
tion. Children read both the literature for children and 
the literature for adults. They quickly learn to read the 
mediocre fare. They begin their reading habit by 
hearing and following nursery tales; they then turn to 
the fairy and folk tales and simple stories written 


especially for them. As they begin to read independ- 
ently, they choose comic books or materials promoted 
through the mass appeal of movies, television, adver- 
tising, and the print industry. It would appear that they 
miss much of the quality literature written for children, 
in their race to read either the high- or low-quality liter- 
ature written for adults. 


Chapter Three 

Children's Imagination and Folklore 

Do children learn violence from their literature and 
their exposure to the other mass media, or do children's 
literature and other media merely reflect the violence 
that children already feel? Violence and aggressive 
impulses are part of a child's emotional growth. Child 
psychologists assert that the basic conflict of pre- 
adolescent years centres on socialization into a 
community and on aggression versus submission. 
Children have to conform to social restraints without 
sacrificing a self-concept based on a sense of individu- 
ality and independence. 

The role of literature in arousing feelings of violence 
in children is not easily ascertainable. It would appear 
that children meet violence in their thoughts and in 
their fantasies and environment to a much greater 
degree than is generally realized. Violence becomes a 
pattern of thought early in life. 

In 1971, the cbc produced a series. Images of 
Childhood, in which young children were asked, in one 
of the segments, to tell about their fantasies.' The 
children defined imagination and its uses, and then 
revealed their daydreams and their dreams while 
sleeping. Their daydreams were of material success. The 
images that occurred in their fantasies during sleep were 
of violence. A little girl dreamed of being chased by a 
witch. An older boy dreamed of being Superman, 
trapped and about to lose his power. In most of the 
fantasies, children cast themselves as victims. They were 
chased by lions and monsters, tossed to alligators, 
"zapped into a mountain", about to be eaten or killed, 
when they awoke in fright or were rescued. With the 
youngest children, mothers were identified as eff"ective 
adults who did the rescuing. 

Books and comic books contributed to the fantasies 
as much as did any other medium. Horror stories, 
movies, and police dramas were mentioned, and, 
clearly, ideas about frightening situations were derived 
from external sources. Still, reactions to the stimulus of 
books and film are highly individual. A boy mentioned 
watching a golf tournament on television, and then 
dreaming that he was an ant in a sand trap with a golf 
ball hurtling toward him. So, the human being is quite 
capable of manufacturing his own horror, independent 

of external suggestion. When these children did mention 
sources for their fantasies, the sources were frequently 
Dracula movies or horror tales - the kind of mediocre 
dramas that they themselves identify as popular reading 
and viewing material. 

Monster stories, books of "sick" jokes, and humorous 
books were chosen as favourite reading by a large 
number of boys in the Regina study discussed in the 
previous chapter.^ Girls were not as interested in these 
books. The sex difference here reflects the orientation of 
boys to literature containing violence as comedy. The 
practical joke, violence as wit, humour, and ridicule are 
classic modes for expressing aggression. Boys, more 
than girls, are expected to be aggressive. Coming to 
grips with assertion and aggression through finding 
acceptable expres.sions for them is a difficulty for most 
human beings. Often it is asserted that a vicarious 
experience through literature enables children to release 
their emotional tension and express their violence in an 
acceptable and harmless form. Anthony Pietropinto, a 
psychiatrist, believes this and defends nonsense liter- 
ature and its variants on this ground of vicarious 
expression.^ Nonsense humour consists chiefly of 
short poems or limericks that relate, in a whimsical way, 
odd or grotesque themes. The nonsense relies on verbal 
play, puns, gibes, or clever gibberish. Pietropinto quotes 
some of the violent nonsense that appeals to 

Willie, with a thirst for gore 
Nailed the baby to the door. 
Mother .said, with humour quaint, 
"Willie, dear, don't mar the paint." 

Willie poisoned Auntie's tea. 
Auntie died in agony. 
Uncle came and looked quite vexed, 
"Really, Will," .said he. "What next?" 

In these rhymes, Willie is perpetrator of the nasty tricks, 
in the following rhyme, Gentle Jane is on the receiving 

Gentle Jane once chanced to sit 
Where some rifle bullets hit; 
Though she had no bumps or sprains. 
Gentle Jane felt shooting pains. 


The Spring 1977 newsletter for students at a Toronto 
high school. Parkdale Collegiate, printed the following 
student submission as a limerick of the times: 

A parachute jumper named Trotter 

Was so drunk that he started to totter. 

When he leaped in the sky, 

Pulled the zip - on his fly! 

And they picked Trotter up with a blotter. 

Examples can be multiplied. The verses are relished 
because of the incongruous reaction following upon an 
act of violence. The horror aroused by the accused axe 
murderess, Lizzie Borden, was immediately converted 
into a street jingle: 

Lizzie Borden took an axe. 
And gave her father forty whacks; 
WTien she saw what she had done, 
She gave her mother forty-one! 

These verses are like the ghoulish rhymes repeated by 
children to each other, preferably while sitting huddled 
together in the dark. The object of ghost story sessions 
is to frighten, and several verses or tales culminate in 
the teller suddenly screaming or grabbing the listener, 
lona and Peter Opie in The Lore and Language of 
Schoolchildren,'^ record a number of spooky rhymes 
circulating among British schoolchildren in the 1950s. 
Dialect or accent rather than content identify these 
verses as British. Many Canadian children would 
recognize the doggerel about the woman who: 

. . .in a churchyard sat, oo-ooh 

Very short and very fat, oo-ooh 

She saw three corpses carried in, oo-ooh 

Very tall and very thin, oo-ooh. 

Woman to the corpses said, oo-ooh 

Shall I be like you when I'm dead? oo-ooh 

Corpses to the woman said, oo-ooh 

Yes, you'll be like us when you're dead, oo-ooh 

Woman to the corpses said . . . 

(scream, grab listener) 

Ghost, horror, and monster stories are like the nonsense 
verses, because these tales also frequently contain 
incongruous and gruesome elements. Therefore, they 
too may perform the same function of resolving fears 
and conflicts by projecting them into an expression that 
may be confronted and controlled. The fact that boys 
particularly like these kinds of tales in their reading 
may, once again, reflect the problem of masculine 
socialization in this area of aggression control. Children 
who read this literature of gruesome nonsense and 
horrible tales learn that adults have felt the rebellious, 
totally destructive tendencies that dwell in both the 
conscious and subconscious minds of children. The 
hterature helps children to recognize that, with 
maturity, there will be an alleviation of and a control 
over such feehngs. As C.S. Lewis suggested, the great 
gift and comfort of literature is that therein we meet 
someone who is exactly like ourselves. 

The stories that children perpetuate among 
themselves are not literature in an artistic sense; rather. 

they are folklore. Children's folklore frequently tends to 
be violent and calculated to induce those very night- 
mares that children recounted lor the ( Bc interview. 
Some of the stories Canadian children tell, recorded in 
Edith Fowke's compilation. Folklore of Canada'', are 
reprinted here: 

The Cadaver's Arm 

Told by Brian Smith, 14, Willowdale, 1973. 

There was this laboratory with ten scientists in it. All of them 
worked very hard at their work, but one girl especially worked 
hard. She never took time out for fun, always just working on 
science, science, science. 

Well one day the other nine scienti.sts decided that they were 
going to play a joke on her. They strung up an arm (a human 
arm) that was a specimen at the laboratory, in her bedroom 
while she was out. When she came home that night, the other 
nine were in a room next door to hers and listening. All of a 
sudden they heard a scream and they all chuckled to 
themselves. But then there was a strange silence and they 
decided to check in on her. They found her in the bathroom 
eating the arm: she had gone completely insane! 

(Brian heard this from John Briggs. a friend, who said the story 
was true.) 

Girlfriend's Legs Cut Off 

Told by Carolvnne Parker, 14, Toronto, 1973. 

Two girls were staying overnight at a friend's house and the 
one decided to go down and get a glass of milk before bed. A 
while later the girl who was still in bed heard a thumping at the 
bottom of the steps. She looked down and there was her 
girlfriend and someone had cut off her legs. 

Humans Can Lick Hands Too! 

Told by Diana Booth, 16, Toronto, 1973. 

There was a girl who had this dog. In her house when she went 
to bed the dog slept beside her on the carpet. In the middle of 
the night if she ever heard anything or was wondenng if every- 
thing was all right she would put her hand down and the dog 
would lick her hand. 

So one night she heard a noise and she put her hand down 
and the dog licked her hand. Then in the morning she went to 
the washroom and saw the dog with his throat slit open and 
written on the wall in blood was: humans can lick hands 

The stories may contain factual or literary inconsisten- 
cies, but that hardly matters when the objective is to 
entertain by frightening. It is noticeable that many of 
the elements in these stories parallel elements in folk 
and fairy tales. Death, mutilation, and cannibalism are 
common motifs. 

Variants of "The Golden Arm" and "The Corpse's 
Liver" are told by Toronto schoolchildren - indeed, 
probably by schoolchildren the English-speaking world 
over. "The Golden Arm" is recorded by Joseph Jacobs 
in his collection of English Fairy Tales'^ In the published 
version, a man marries a young and fair woman who 
has a golden arm. They are happy, though, truth to tell, 
the man loves the golden arm more than he loves his 
wife. When the wife dies, the man puts on deepest black 
and a great show of mourning. But. for all that, he gets 
up in the middle of the night, digs up her body, cuts off 


the golden arm, and carries it home. He puts the arm 
under his pillow and, as he is about to sleep, the ghost of 
his wife appears. Pretendmg not to be afraid, he asks: 

"What hast thou done with thy 

cheeks so red?" 
"All withered and wasted away," 

replied the ghost in a hollow voice. 

The litany continues in questions and answers, until the 
final question, which is answered with a shout and 

"What has thou done with thy 
golden arm?" 


The version collected from a Toronto teenager is 
recounted in Folklore in Canada? The teenager's version 
is less poetic in rendition than Jacobs' and is much 
shorter in the telling. It is told as an anecdote, and 
concludes with the arm strangling the man. 

Jacobs' note on the origin of "The Golden Arm" 
mentions the obvious similarity with tales about golden 
legs. Jacobs also notes the parallel structure in a tale 
collected by the Grimm brothers, in which an 
innkeeper's wife uses the liver of a man hanging on a 
gallows for a meal. When the ghost visits her, she asks 
what has become of his hair, his eyes, and so on, 
concluding with the query about his liver. At that point 
the ghost (the story-teller), leaps forward with the 


"The Corpse's Liver" (often purportedly a true tale, 
according to the teller) is still circulating among 
Toronto teens.^ The modern version is some variant on 
the story of a boy sent to the store for meat, who 
squanders the money and stops by the graveyard on his 
way home to dig up the liver of a corpse. Frequently it is 
the liver of a recently deceased relative - a grandparent, 
uncle, or aunt. The liver is very much enjoyed by the 
family. (This again is a familiar motif from folklore; 
one's own family is particularly tasty.) At night, the 
corpse returns to claim his liver, repeating "I want my 
liver," as he crosses the street, enters the house, climbs 
the stairs, near the bed, and grabs the boy! Jacobs, 
writing about "The Corpse's Liver" and "The Golden 
Arm", says: 

It is doubtful how far such gruesome topics should be intro- 
duced into a book for children, but . . . pity and terror among 
the little ones is as effective as among the spectators of a 
[Greek] drama, and they take the same kind of thrill from such 
stories. They know it is all make-believe just as much as the 
spectators of a tragedy. Everyone who has enjoyed the blessing 
of a romantic imagination has been trained up on such tales of 

Children are indeed trained on tales, some of wonder, 
some of less admirable qualities. The folklore and 
imaginings of children are replete with violent images. 
Gruesome lore and language are major interests of 


Chapter Four 

Mother Goose 

The first stories and rhymes that children hear are 
usually from the world of Mother Goose - a world that 
nursery-rhyme reformers claim has much violence, too 
much for introduction into a child's nursery.' The claim 
has some validity. However, the violence is only a part 
of the total contribution of Mother Goose to the devel- 
opment of children, a small part that resists being 
expunged, possibly because the expression of violent 
acts is intimately bound with the traditional recitation 
and historical roots of Mother Goose. 

The name Mother Goose originated in seventeenth 
century France and was popularized by Charles 
Perrault. His Les Contes de la Mere 1 'Oye (1697) was a 
collection of fairy tales, rather than the verses that 
characterize a Mother Goose today. A Mother Goose, 
meaning a collection of tales, was published in London 
in 1729. Many of the verses that now constitute a 
Mother Goose, in the sense of a collection of nursery 
rhymes, originated in street handbills printed as early as 
the 1620s in England. 

In Boston, in 1719, the name Mother Goose was used 
in a reputed work. Songs for the Nursery or Mother 
Goose's Melodies. No copy of this work is known to 
exist; its bibliographic mystery is part of the evidence 
for claiming that the actual Mother Goose as a Boston 
matriarch, long buried in the Old Granary Burying 
Ground. It is certain that "a Mother Goose book" is 
most often used as the North American term for any 
collection of nursery rhymes and riddles, games, lulla- 
bies, stories, songs, and snatches. 

Whether North American or British in origin, the 
contents of these nursery rhyme collections are similar. 
A Mother Goose book can contain as many or as few 
verses as the publisher wishes. The true nursery rhyme 
is anonymous. Many verses are doggerel, but many are 
the works of known authors - the limericks of Edward 
Lear, the conundrums of Lewis Carroll, the verses of 
Walter de la Mare, and so on. Some rhymes are 
standards, without which even the cheapest, most 
poorly produced cardboard book could not be a proper 
Mother Goose. Curiously enough, the best-known, 
most-recited poems also contain the oft-deplored 
elements of violence. Consider Jack who fell and broke 

his crown, and Jill who came tumbling after. Then there 
is Humpty Dumpty, who suffered such an irreparable 
fall!^ What about pussy, flung down the well, or the 
three blind mice pursued by a knife-wielding farmer's 
wife? What English-speaking child has not been lulled 
in babyhood by the verses of "Rock-a-bye Baby"? In 
the first examples given. Jack and Jill and Humpty 
Dumpty, the violence is physical and accidental. The 
violence is physical and purposeful in the cruel 
treatment of mice and cats. In "Rock-a-bye Baby", an 
overtone of psychological abuse is added to the physical 
violence, and both are directed toward the child. ^ This 
universal lullaby combines two threats, falling and 
noise, both devastating to the infant. 

Behavioural psychologists maintain that infants 
innately show fear when a loud noise suddenly occurs in 
their vicinity, when there is a loss of physical support 
accompanied by a falling sensation, when pain is 
experienced, and when a sudden movement is made by 
others as the child is falling asleep.'* In this lullaby, the 
baby is threatened by being told that he will be put high 
on a tree-top where, when the wind blows, his cradle 
will rock. Mother may even be rocking the child as she 
unfolds this vignette. When (not even the saving grace 
of an if) the bough breaks - terrifying crack and jolt - 
the cradle will fall, down will come baby, bough, cradle 
and all.-'' The fall is like Humpty Dumpty's - irreparable 
and totally damaging. What a very good thing it is that 
baby has no understanding of the words being crooned 
at him! This lack of language may be a salvation, 
although the illustrations, in both cheap and quality 
editions, usually clarify the situation. Baby has been 
shown, mouth open in surprise, being tumbled from his 
perch. One modem edition. Lavender's Blue (Oxford. 
1954). shows a baby secure in a sturdy wooden cradle 
being carried aloft by four angels around the posters of 
the crib. As any well-versed child knows, these may be 
the four angels of bedtime prayers, "one to sing, one to 
pray, and two to carry my soul away." There is a finality 
of death about some of these verses and their illustra- 
tions, but it is highly unlikely that the image of death is 
apparent to the children. Death is something that does 
interest children greatly as they move through the years 


from toddler to young adult. But as young children 
have little or no concept of mortality, particularly their 
own. the image is something to be curious about rather 
than something to be feared. 

It should be remembered that death was more 
domestic in the society of Mother Goose. The mention 
of death is taken as one with the fanciful characters and 
the curious world of nursery rhyme that children love. 
Any educator or parent interested in introducing 
children to language and literature would insist that 
every child deserves to own a better edition of Mother 
Goose than the paperback economy variety. Mother 
Goose contains verses for the child to enjoy and for the 
sociologist, psychologist, and literary critic to ponder. 

Violence is one of the leit-motivs that can be explored. 
Violence and cruelty have been grounds for criticism. In 
the 1950s, Geoffrey Handley-Taylor issued a short bibli- 
ography of nursery-rhyme reform, in which he wrote a 
brief analysis of nursey rhymes. He claimed that: 

The average collection of 200 traditional nursery rhymes 
contains approximately 100 rhymes which personify all that is 
glorious and ideal for the child. Unfortunately, the remaining 
Too rhymes harbour unsavoury elements. The incidents hsted 
below occur in the average collection and may be accepted as a 
reasonably conservative estimate based on a general survey of 
this type of literature. 

8 allusions to murder (unclassified) 

2 cases of choking to death 

1 case of death by devouring 

1 case of cutting a human being in half 

1 case of decapitation 

1 case of death by squeezing 

1 case of death by shrivelling 

1 case of death by starvation 

1 case of boiling to death 

1 case of death by drowning 

4 cases of killing domestic animals 
1 case of body-snatching 

21 cases of death (unclassified) 

7 cases relating to the severing of limbs 
1 allusion to a bleeding heart 

1 case of devouring human flesh 

5 threats of death 

1 case of kidnapping 

12 cases of torments and cruelty to human beings and animals 

8 of whipping and lashing 

3 allusions to blood 

14 cases of stealing and general dishonesty 

15 allusions to maimed human beings and animals 

1 allusion to undertakers 

2 allusions to graves 

23 cases of physical violence (unclassified) 
1 case of lunacy 

16 allusions to misery and sorrow 
I case of drunkenness 

4 cases of cursing 

1 allusion to marriage as a form of death 
1 case of scorning the blind 

1 case of .scorning prayer 

9 cases of children being lost or abandoned 

2 cases of house burning 

9 allusions to poverty and want 

5 allusions to quarrelling 

2 cases of unlawful imprisonment 

2 cases of racial discrimination 

Expressions of fear, weeping, moans of anguish, biting, pain 
and evidence of supreme selfishness may be found in almost 
every other page.* 

If Mother Goose is compared with the corpus of fairy 
and folk tales with which she shares an inheritance, the 
incidence of quarrelling, cursing, boiling, devouring of 
flesh, and cracking of limbs would seem conservative 
rather than excessive. 

A comparison of good-quality popular editions of 
Mother Goose would bear the above listing out, 
depending upon the number of rhymes included. Two 
that have approximately 400 rhymes are Raymond 
Briggs' Treasury of Mother Goose Rhymes (Coward- 
McCann, 1966) and Marguerite de Angeli's Book of 
Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes (Doubleday, 1954). 
These books offer an artistic contrast. The Briggs book, 
together with its companion volume The Fairy Tale 
Treasury (Hamish Hamilton, 1972) has many violent 
short tales and verses. The artist shows strong line 
drawings of ugly people and uses lots of colour to 
enliven the text. De Angeli's approach is to diminish the 
excitement and the action of the fewer violent tales that 
are included by presenting more domestic scenes 
peopled with dainty children and jovial adults. Her 
palette is pastel and the illustrations are muted, in the 
style of Kate Greenaway, generations earlier. Although 
both books contain approximately the same number of 
rhymes, Briggs includes the story of Giant Bonaparte 
who eats naughty children, but de Angeli does not. In 
Briggs' illustation accompanying this verse, a robust 
little boy appears to be ably thumbing his nose at the 
towering giant. On the basis of a glance through these 
editions, an adult might well select the Briggs book for a 
boy and the softer more feminine de Angeli book for a 
girl. Thus an initial choice of books may begin the 
process of educating boys to the stereotype of bracing, 
aggressive temperament and girls to the stereotype of 
gentler disposition. 

Brian Wildsmith's Mother Goose (Oxford, 1964) is 
bright and colourful, and might be selected for its 
appeal to the young child regardless of sex. It is much 
less violent both in content and in illustration than 
Briggs' book, but it only contains a hundred or so 
verses. Like Lavender's Blue: A Book of Nursery Rhymes 
(Oxford, 1954), again with muted drawings and pastel 
shades, these shorter versions of Mother Goose, with 
100 to 200 verses, do not meet the criteria of deplorable 
incident described by Handley-Taylor in his plea for 
nursery-rhyme reform. His listing, however, does have 
an impact in calling attention to the sordid side of 
Mother Goose. 

The reasons for this sordidness and violence are 
varied. First, and obviously, incidents occur because 
some rhymes were not written for children's 
consumption per se. They were the doggerel of the 


streets in earlier times, from the sixteenth through 
nineteenth centuries. In their way. nursery rhymes are 
social history; if lunatics, scorned cripples, maimed 
animals, and so on appear in the verses, it is because the 
verses reflect their times. 

The cases of injuring or killing domestic animals are 
cited as unsavoury elements, but the hunting of animals 
and the killing of domestic livestock are facts of life. 
Few people in an agrarian economy such as Mother 
Goose's society - or, for that matter, twentieth-century 
rural Ontario - take a sentimental view of animals. 
Even the life of human beings was held as more 
dispensable in times past.^ Disability, whether from 
accident or illness, was perhaps more visible in the daily 
life of Mother Goose's world. Death occurred in the 
home rather than in the hospital or institution as it 
usually does today. The fate of animals in Mother 
Goose is hardly unsavoury compared to actual fates of 
many human beings, particularly defenceless children 
in the middle ages. The History of Childhood (Vsycho- 
history Press, 1974), edited by Lloyd De Meuse, begins 
with the assertion that "The history of childhood is a 
nightmare from which we have only recently begun to 
awaken. The further back in history one goes, the lower 
the level of child care, and the more likely children are 
to be killed, abandoned, beaten, terrorized and sexually 
abused." This pattern of life is reflected in Mother 
Goose. It has even been suggested that simple counting 
out rhymes to identify who shall be "it" were Druidic 
formulae for determining human sacrifice. The hypoth- 
esis, like many of the tales associated with Druids, is 
tenuous. "London Bridge is falling down", a nursery 
game that entraps someone at the end of a sequence, 
may echo the historical evidence of immuring someone, 
usually a young child or adolescent, in the foundation 
of a bridge. 

In any of the standard editions of nursery rhymes 
available today, there is a mixture of cruelty and 
kindness both to humans and to animals. Children like 
animals, so animals are a prominent feature of nursery 
rhymes. Animals are frequently personified and shown 
to control their situations. They exhibit very human 
virtues and faults. It was, after all. Goosey Goosey 
Gander who threw the old man down the stairs for not 
saying his prayers.^ Mary's little lamb loved Mary and 
followed her to school because, as teacher explains to 
the other children, Mary loves the little lamb and, by 
inference, treats the lamb with kindness. The pony, 
Dapple-Grey, was lent to a lady who mistreated him; 
his owner declares: 

I would not lend my pony now 
For all that lady's hire 

Against the pussy put down the well, there is the 
admonition to "love little pussy" and "not pull her tail, 
nor drive her away." It is naughty boys who try to 
drown poor pussy cats or who come with bow and 
arrow, determined to shoot a little sparrow: 

"Oh no" said the sparrow 
"I won't make a slew!" 
So he flapped his wings 
And away he flew. 

The ethic operating in Mother Goose mstructs children 
to be religious, to be kind to animals, and to be clean, 
careful, and obedient. Bad kittens lose their mittens and 
get no pie, but good kittens find their mittens and even 
wash them after eating their pie. 

Hence some of the violence is within the context of 
learning. Dire consequences are shown to follow certain 
courses of action. Three children sliding on ice on a 
river fell in and were drowned. Had these children, so 
the rhyme tells, slid on dry ground or better yet stayed 
safe at home, they would not be drowned. This is the 
"awful warning" school of literature, only incidentally 
exemplified by Mother Goose. There are other more 
blatant examples in longer stories written expressly for 
children, and in the religious or moral verses intended 
for children's edification. A good example of these 
verses is provided by a digression into Isaac Watts' 
Divine and Moral Songs A t tempted in Easy Language for 
the Use of Children, which was first published in 1715 
and steadily rose to a peak of popularity in the 1850s.' 
Isaac Watts (1674-1748), an English theologian whose 
hymns are represented in modern hymnals, wrote these 
songs for children to give them an alternative to the 
wanton, idle, and profane songs of the day. He wanted 
to entertain them but also to direct their thoughts 
heavenward. The songs stand as a "landmark, early but 
clear, in the intimate family history of the English 
child. "'° The divine songs set uncomfortable if not 
impossible standards for children: they spoke of death 
and the wages of sin. Grounded in the world of religious 
belief, these songs surely could inflict more agonies of 
spirit upon the sensitive child than ever did the verses of 
Mother Goose who lived in a world of make-believe. 
Children were encouraged to think about the fact that 
they might die imminently and be accountable to a 
record-keeping God Who with: 

One stroke of His Almighty Rod 
Shall send young sinners quick to Hell. 

Many verses told of assured damnation, "dreadful Hell 
and everlasting pains." God's love and grace could 
easily turn to God's vengeance: 

. . .all his love to fury turn 

And strike me dead upon the place. 

There was no repentance in the grave, nor pardon for 
the dead, so children were exhorted to be dutit^ul and 
pious while they had the brief breath of life. The Divine 
Songs were always explicit about the danger of delaying 
personal reform or of the sins of disrespect for parents. 
jeering, cursing or telling lies: 

The Lord delights in them that speak 
The words of Truth; but every liar 
Must have his portion in the lake 
That burns with brimstone and with fire. 


Then let me always watch my lips 
Lest I be struck to Death and Hell 
Since God a book of reckoning keeps 
For every lie that children tell. 

Isaac Watts' songs were not all frightening; his book 
actually exhibited a move toward the beginning of the 
end of the Puritan persecuting love of children. His 
truly fnghtening verse is now forgotten in the evolution 
of a changing attitude toward childhood, but he still 
survives in Mother Goose or young children's poetry 
collections with such verses as: 

Let dogs delight to bark and bite 
For God has made them so: 
Let bears and lions growl and fight, 
For 'tis their nature to. 

But, children, you should never let 
Such angry quarrels arise. 
Your little hands were never made 
To tear each other's eyes. 

The lesson always survives in children's literature; the 
violence of "awful warning" is less searing in Mother 
Goose than in much well-intentioned religious or moral 
literature, or than in some of the explicitly realistic 
material presented to young people today. 

Violence in Mother Goose can be explained from the 
context in history, and the violence is perpetuated by 
the insistence, stemming from oral tradition, on a 
standard repetition. The nursery rhymes can be used to 
infer social history and the presence of violence in past 
times. One example is the phenomenon of child abuse 
and infanticide that may underlie such rhymes as 
"Rock-a-bye Baby"." 

It is an accepted psychological fact that, through 
fantasy, a human being reveals that which is most 
important to him. Furthermore, some of the burden of 
the reality is removed through exercise of the fantasy. 
Unwanted children have been born to a life of abuse, 
misery, and beating. The matter of child abuse in our 
present society is a hidden but pervasive and persistent 
evil.'^ Child abusers vent their spleen in Mother Goose's 
society. At least one psychologist has asserted that 
"Rock-a-bye Baby" allows a parent to express 
concealed hostility toward a child - the wish of a 
mother to be rid of a burdensome child has found its 
way into cradle song.'^ Has it also found its way into 
one of the most delightful longer poems of Mother 

Gay go up and gay go down 

To ring the bells of London town. 

This is normally read to children just above the age of 
infancy; it is an introduction to longer poetry requiring 
sustained listening. It introduces onomatopoeia, a 
device used throughout the easy rhyming couplets. The 
young child may be lulled by the rhythm and may 
become drowsy and inattentive before the end of this 
rhyme. When the child droops, the swooping last 
couplet comes to affright his rest: 

Here comes a candle to light you to bed 
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head! 

The thought of infanticide, too unpleasant to 
acknowledge openly, has been expressed in nursery 
play. David Bakan contends that "Rock-a-bye Baby" 
takes advantage of the fact that the child does not 
understand the words. The effect is one of cursing a 
person in an unknown language.''' The curse releases an 
emotion or tension without actually harming the person 
cursed. However, children can still sense the hostility 
and malevolent intent, and Bakan advances the 
hypothesis that they erect defensive barriers against too 
explicit an expression of this intent. One of these 
barriers is the insistence on stories or rhymes being 
repeated in the same way at each telling. Children thus 
refuse to have a situation clarified through the use of 
alternate wording or explanation. They hold the truth at 
bay, defending themselves by the magic of formula. The 
hypothesis may hold elements of truth - young children 
certainly do prefer their stories recited according to the 
familiar version. 

Psychologists assert that children are reassured by 
ritual; at a certain stage of their development they 
prefer things in ordered patterns. This order may be in 
the line-up of their toys, or in their routine before going 
to bed, or in their stories. They are creating an order in 
their world, a necessary step to future psychological 
development, and are not necessarily demonstrating a 
defence mechanism against projected hostility. Literary 
historians would suggest that renderings from formula 
derive from an oral tradition. Children are natural 
inheritors of the tenets of this tradition, and so prefer 
their stories told in the same way. A simple explanation 
may be that children appreciate a pattern in tellings so 
that they may have the assurance of enjoying the same 
experience twice. 

Returning to the abuse of children as revealed in 
Mother Goose, it may be fairly stated that whippings 
and beatings are frequent occurrences. Sometimes these 
beatings are intended as lessons, viewed as legitimate 

Tom, Tom the piper's son 

Stole a pig and away he run. 

The pig was eat and Tom was beat. 

And Tom went crying down the street. 

More often the beating is a completely casual occur- 
rence. The old woman who lived in a shoe daily 
whipped her children soundly. She had so many 
children, but no old man, and she lived in a confined 
space, with broth for supper but no bread - a situation 
conducive to abuse. As the rhyme says, she didn't know 
what else to do. As it was beyond her ability to cope 
with her domestic situation, she beat her children - a 
situation as common in the times of Mother Goose as in 
present society. 

Dr. Faustus, the schoolmaster, whipped his pupils 
through England. France, and Spain, and back again. 
One must assume, no other explanation being given. 


that the pupils were whipped simply because that was 
normal procedure in schools.'*' 

Little Polly Flinders was whipped for soiling her nice 
new clothes. In earlier versions of this same verse, Jenny 
Flinders is whipped for spoiling her clothes. The soiling 
of nice new clothes, the later refinement, seems 
advanced to legitimize the beating, new clothes 
presumably being more worthy of careful treatment. 
Does a young child grasp the distinction? Quite 
probably Polly (or Jenny) sat yesterday among those 
ashes without incurring wrath. Today, for the same 
action, she has been beaten. It may be that the older 
version more exactly reveals a truth of childhood, the 
experience of a sudden inexplicable rage of a parent - 
an experience common to children who exasperate 

Children often experience vicissitudes of an irrational 
and violent nature. They accept this allotment. Being 
defenceless, they have no recourse but to do so. Being 
innocent, they have no framework for knowing the 
rational. Their innocence at least functions as a psycho- 
logical defence against the hostility expressed in some of 
the words addressed to them. At the same time, this 
expression of hostility and the depiction of overt 
violence in nursery rhyme and story informs their 
innocence. Efforts to change Mother Goose and to 
reform her cruelties are largely unsuccessful. In New 
Nursery Rhymes for Old (True Aim, 1959), there is a 
refurbished "Pussy in the Well" on the grounds that this 
rhyme was particularly indefensible and encouraged 
children to drown cats. The new version reads: 

Ding dong bell 
Pussy's at the well 
Who took her there? 
Little Johnny Hare. 
Who'll bring her in? 
Little Tommy Thin. 
What a jolly boy was that 
To get some milk for pussy cat 
Who ne'er did any harm 
But played with the mice in 
His father's bam. 

Even Pussy is reformed in the last lines. However, most 
children continue to hear the original version with: 

What a naughty boy was that 
To drown poor pussy cat 
Who ne'er did any harm 
But killed the mice in 
His father's bam. 

Mothers recite to their children the verses they recall 
from their own nursery days; hence, the verses survive 
in the same form. The words are not analyzed, they are 
simply received as the magical right words from long 

Mother Goose does change, but slowly. Items 
gradually drop because they no longer have a place and 
have not firmly entrenched themselves in folk tradition. 

English children were once threatened with Bonaparte; 
Old Boney was a tall dark man who rode his horse to 
snatch naughty children, tear them limb from limb, and 
gobble them up. Old Boney, or Giant Bonaparte as he is 
sometimes called, no longer has the same force as a 
threat in nurseries. Clearly, at one time he was an 
historical threat to Englishmen, and that legacy would 
have echoed in the adult uses of the rhyme. Now he 
exists as a powerless bogeyman from a dim past, and is 
only represented in omnibus collections. 

It is probably not possible or necessary to expurgate 
the violence in Mother Goose. Such a body of literature 
should not be defended on the grounds that it is no 
worse than many another, but it is true that nursery 
rhymes are no worse in their violent content than many 
an other literary genres for children - for example, folk 
and fairy tales. Nursery rhymes are much better than 
some examples of children's literature, such as comic 
books and their visual equivalents, filmed cartoons, 
which tend to exploit violence for the sake of 

It is not realistic to ignore violence; children meet it 
as early as they meet their nursery rhymes. But violence 
in nursery rhymes need not be emphasized; its presence 
is not unduly intrusive. It might be argued that hfe may 
be made, not better - never that - but bearable by the 
revelation of aggression and violence as a natural 
human reaction. Mother Goose, violent as it sometimes 
is, contributes in a traditional form to the development 
and growth of a child. Mother Goose is a sturdy 
pabulum, expanding a child's vocabulary, introducing a 
wide range of characters, and training a child's ear to 
the musical cadence of language. It has frequently been 
said that Mother Goose frees a child's imagination, 
charming the ear and delighting the inward eye. It is 
advisable to take what Mother Goose offers without 
insisting on reform. She is redoubtable and will not 
readily recant her traditional ways. 


Chapter Five 

Folk and Fairy Tales 

Folk and fairy tales, like nursery rhymes, have survived 
condemnation and alteration to hold a secure place as 
part of the first literature for young children. Fairy tales 
may be defined as stories wherein the little people help 
or hinder the protagonists; folk tales may be defined as 
those which include the supernatural, along with 
fragmentary history or bits of wisdom. The values of 
these tales for children are many; they are not solely for 
entertainment, as thought Mrs. Sarah Trimmer, editor 
of The Guardian of Education. In the early 1800s, she 
wrote that such books are "calculated to entertain the 
imagination, rather than to improve the heart, or 
cultivate the understanding."' In this century, which has 
almost totally accepted the value of entertainment, 
particularly in relation to education, the two last 
phrases are still contended. Some say that fairy tales do 
improve the heart and cultivate the understanding, if 
those phrases mean that the child matures into an 
integrated personality, exhibiting ideal characteristics 
such as tolerance, rational behaviour, respect for self 
and others. Others claim that fairy and folk tales - full 
as they are of magic tricks, cheating and falsehoods, 
unearned rewards, unpunished evils, lazy boys and 
greedy girls - do not, at best, advance the ideal devel- 
opment of personality. The stories distort reality and, at 
worst, frighten or emotionally scar children by their 
violence. The violence is both physical and psycho- 
logical and may be projected against the protagonist 
with whom the young readers identify. 

Almost as soon as printing began, these stories were 
taken from the oral tradition and recorded. There are 
Italian and French texts of fairy tales from the late 
1550s, but the book that immortalized them in written 
tradition was Charles Perrault's Histoires ou Contes du 
temps passe (1697).^ This book also introduced the term 
Mother Goose into widespread use. "Little Red Riding 
Hood", "Sleeping Beauty", "Bluebeard" and 
"Cinderella" appeared, cast in literary form.^ All are 
worthy of examination as universal tales containing 
symbols of power and violence. Perrault writes clearly 
and simply, giving each tale a complete setting. 
Children aged seven to nine, reading alone, often find 
Perrault's tales easier to read than the tales of Andersen 

or the Grimm brothers. Except, claims Elizabeth Cook 
in 77?^ Ordinary and the Fabulous, Perrault's "Red 
Riding Hood", which is "peculiarly nursery-ish in 
manner and peculiarly savage in content, even if one 
doesn't suspect it of imaging sadism or originating in 
ritual murder.'"* 

The story does create the image of sadism and does 
originate in murder, ritual or otherwise. Without 
symbolism or literary device, the story tells of a young 
girl, walking alone through an uninhabited wood on an 
errand, who meets a wolf who acts like a man. This 
wolfman questions the girl about herself and leaves. 
The girl hurries on to her destination, and with happy 
relief arrives at the sanctuary of her grandmother's 
house. Trapped within the house, she gradually learns 
of her grandmother's murder by the stranger to whom 
she spoke in the wood. The man's sadistic teasing over, 
the child is raped. Why else undress and get into bed 
with the wolf? She is killed and mutilated in cannibal- 
istic fashion. Perrault's original audience, the French 
upper classes of the late 1600s were probably quite 
aware of the implicit horror, sexual assault, and canni- 
balism in the story. These elements would likely be 
heightened by the time of history in which the audience 
lived: some of the factual incidents of Perrault's time 
are more horrible than the fictions. The wolfman that 
Red Riding Hood met was not, in the sixteenth and 
early seventeenth centuries, the totally fictional 
character that the "big bad wolf is today. 

The wolf was a dreaded predatory animal of north- 
central Europe, sheltered in the forested lands. In 
England, the wolf was exterminated quite early, and 
hence no tradition of werewolf stories grew. But in 
Europe, the werewolf was accepted because seeming 
proofs existed in the persons of wolfmen. Lycanthropy, 
a form of insanity in which men behaved like fictional 
werewolve.s, was an aspect of the general obsession with 
witchcraft and devil-mania that swept Europe in the 
middle ages. On limited evidence there seems no 
indication that women ever suffered from or were perse- 
cuted for lycanthropy. The .syndrome, as.sociated with 
sexual violence and necrophilia, was recorded in males 


Peter Stubbe (or StiimpO was a man who murdered, 
sexually assaulted, and mutilated 15 young persons. It is 
claimed that he tortured animals when humans were 
denied him. It is also claimed that he butchered his 
victims in order to eat parts of them - including the 
brains of his own young son, whose skull he battered. 
Although he had mistresses, he apparently committed 
incest with his daughter. When apprehended, returning 
from a graveyard, he claimed that he was a wolf. In 
those days, the claim was considered as a verity and not 
treated as an expression of insanity. 

Pierre DeLancre, a magistrate under Henry IV of 
France, wrote an account of another celebrated wolf- 
man case, that of Jean Grenier. Grenier inspired ballads 
and pamphlets, and his horrible excesses were described 
in the street literature of the early 1600s. Fearing 
torture, Grenier, when arrested, confessed immediately 
and was sentenced in 1589: 

. . .to be broken on a wheel, with red-hot burning pincers in 
several places to have the flesh pulled off his bones, after that, 
his legs and arms to be broken with a wooden axe or hatchet, 
afterwards to have his head struck from his body, then to have 
his carcase burnt to ashes. 

The good servant DeLancre reported the case in his 
Description of the Inconstancy of Evil Angels (1612), in 
which he documented his modest successes in burning 
600 witches. The actions of persons both within and 
without the pale of society were so horrendous in the 
seventeenth century that some of the fictional accounts 
deriving from the time are but pale reflections of the 

Children in such times would likely have seen public 
violence, and an audience hearing "Red Riding Hood" 
would have been attuned to the symbolism. Its impact 
has considerably diminished today. The symbol of the 
wolf, standing for the violence of sexual depravity and 
for a force of evil, has lost the power to horrify or to 
titillate. The illustrations in today's versions often show 
wolves either as big dogs or as exaggerated Disney 
cartoons. The moral of tale - in Perrault's time, as now 
- is, "Little girls, don't talk to strangers." Few little girls 
expect to meet wolves in the woods nowadays, so the 
story remains securely imaginative. Furthermore, the 
violence of the ending is diluted by the ritual conver- 
sation between wolf and child: 

Grandmama. what great arms you have got! 
The better to embrace thee, my pretty child. 

Grandmama, what great legs you have got! 
The better to run with, my pretty child. 

Grandmama, what great ears you have got! 
The better to hear with, my pretty child. 

Grandmama, what great teeth you have got! 
The better to eat you with, my pretty child. 

Upon saying this, the wolf fell upon Red Riding Hood 
and ate her! Some versions end here, while others tell of 
nearby huntsmen or woodsmen who come to the hut 
and avenge the murder of Red Riding Hood by killing 

the wolf a just ending to children, and therefore a 
happy outcome of sorts. In some versions, the 
woodsmen split the wolfs belly, releasing the girl 
unharmed. This release, together with the .symbolism of 
the red cloak and hood, is part of the evidence for the 
origin of this tale . . . not in folk history or experience, 
but in allegorical nature myths of death and rebirth. 
The forces of light and innocence, .symbolized by the 
happy and bright child, are met on their journey by the 
forces of darkness and evil, personified by the wolf, who 
in medieval thought and in northern mythology is the 
destroyer of light. 

The sexual symbolism and the fears of deception, 
destruction, and invasion of home and person in the 
various versions of "Red Riding Hood" are discussed at 
some length in an article by Lee Burns. ^ He points out 
that "Little Golden Hood" follows more closely the 
death/rebirth cycle, and that golden is the colour of the 
sun. light, and goodness. Red is more often the symbol 
of sexual desire and sexual maturity, as well as of blood 
and violent anger. It seems plausible to accept "Red 
Riding Hood" as a story of sexual violence, although 
children cannot realize this overtone. 

Educational authorities in Ontario were only 
marginally aware of this connotation when they 
included the story in school readers. The authorities 
wanted the story in their readers, but they also wanted 
to spare children thoughts of death. The version of 
"Red Riding Hood" in The Ontario Readers, at one time 
authorized for use in Ontario public schools, is 
attributed to Perrault.^ But it was thought more suitable 
to have the wolf invite Red Riding Hood to help him 
arise from the bed, where he has been hiding under the 
covers. Just as he is about to eat the little girl, a wasp 
flies in the window and stings him. "The wolf gave a cry 
and a little bird outside sang 'Tweet! Tweet!' This told 
the huntsman it was time to let fly his arrow, and the 
wolf was killed on the spot." 

"Little Red Riding Hood" does not seem to be a tale 
that has frightened many children. Perhaps the fate of 
the heroine is overlooked in the rhythmical climax. 
There is conflicting evidence about children's reactions 
to physical assaults and insults in their first stories. In 
group story-telling sessions, most children seem excited, 
anticipatory, and unworried by the violence. If queried 
as to the effect of the story, they will robustly state that 
the stories "didn't scare me", or give reassurance that 
the stories are "only make-believe".^ Evidence of these 
tales frightening children tends to be based upon 
individual cases: some children have reacted with fear 
and night-time terror to stories such as "Hansel and 
Gretel" or "Babes in the Wood". These tales have great 
power to frighten sensitive children, because the protag- 
onists are human beings, not anthropomorphic 
characters as in "The Three Little Pigs" or mixtures o( 
human beings and talking ammals as in "Little Red 
Riding Hood". 

Unlike Red Riding Hood, who is an innocent and 


simple child with a loving family, Hansel and Gretel are 
unwanted children who display ingenuity and boldness 
of spirit. This tale, collected by folklorists Jacob and 
Wilhelm Grimm, is an example of the genre of tales in 
which small children outwit a witch or ogre into whose 
hands they have fallen. 

The plight of abandoned children is a familiar motif 
and "Hansel and Gretel" is a good example. Hansel 
overhears their father and stepmother planning to 
abandon them in the woods, and he arms himself with 
pebbles to blaze a trail back home. Initially the parents 
are relieved, but when poverty again pinches, the 
children are once more abandoned; Hansel lays a trail 
of breadcrumbs but the birds eat the crumbs and the 
children are truly lost. At the moment of despair, they 
arrive at the gingerbread house and, tempted by sweet 
foods, are imprisoned by the occupant. Hansel is 
fattened to become the witch's dinner, while Gretel is 
the abused servant. Clever Hansel delays his death with 
trickery as long as possible and quick-witted Gretel, on 
the day appointed, manages to shove the witch into the 
flaming oven. A magic duck helps the children find their 
way home. Fortuitously, the cruel stepmother has died. 
The children, with the witch's treasure that they 
thoughtfully stole, are able to end the family's sorrows 

Abandonment, or being lost, is a strong childhood 
fear. In this story the fear is explored; the children 
emerge victorious, able to solve not only their own 
dilemma but also that of their family. The tale is rather 
more psychologically than physically frightening, for 
although the oven is always described as burning hot 
with fierce flames, there is no emphasis on physical 
abuse. Some children may feel threatened and 
frightened by the tale, but then reassured by the 
outcome. Tales like this one can be reassuring, allowing 
a child to imagine abandonment, but holding a bad 
outcome at bay by use of satisfactory denouement, and 
by setting the tale in "Once upon a time." When tales 
are told in an atmosphere of aflfection, the fantastic 
elements are appreciated and the action is made safely 
distant by both time and place. Jella Lepman, working 
for UNESCO after the war, reported that when a large 
exhibition of children's books was shown in Munich as 
a contribution to rebuilding a divided world, "Hansel 
and Gretel" was not regarded as an appropriate tale 
because, for some adults and war-scarred children, the 
fantasy was too close to recent reality. The witch's oven 
too much resembled the gas chambers of Auschwitz, 
and the efl"ect of a "distancing factor" was temporarily 

"Hansel and Gretel" is a more positive tale than 
those which end with death for the child. In this respect, 
"Little Red Riding Hood", beneath its veneer, is a 
depressing and savage tale. So too, is the story of 
"Babes in the Wood", a tale of long standing that has 
fascinated or frightened children for many generations. 
Known versions of this ballad may be traced back to 

1595. The tale has been in constant appearance ever 
since, sometimes as a chapbook - a cheaply produced 
booklet sold by itinerant pedlars - sometimes as a 
ballad or nursery rhyme. Two versions are in print 
today, the most readable being The Old Ballad of Babes 
in the Wood (ho6.\ty Head, 1972), illustrated by Edward 
Ardizzone and based on a 1640 text in the British 

The story is a simple one; a little boy and his young 
sister, taken to a wood to be murdered by hired ruffians, 
are instead abandoned. 

Thus wandered these two babes 
Till Death did end their grief 
In one another's arms they died. 
As Babes wanting relief. 

No burial these pretty babes 
Of any man receives. 
Till Robin Redbreast painfully 
Did cover them with leaves. 

In spite of its long publishing history, which does 
indicate popularity, there is disagreement about the 
suitability of the story. The good Mrs. Trimmer (1741- 
1810) read and apparently enjoyed "Babes in the 
Wood" when she was young, but in mature judgment 
she "condemned the work unreservedly as being 
absolutely unfit for the perusal of children."^ Elizabeth 
Cooke is now of the same mind. In her introduction to 
myths, legends, and fairy tales for teachers and story- 
tellers, she states that "Hansel and Gretel" and "Babes 
in the Wood" should be absolutely banned. '° Her 
reason is that no psychological distance is possible 
when the fictional children and the listening children 
are of the same age. TTie identification factor is too 

Many children's librarians would agree, and would 
not recommend "Babes in the Wood", both because of 
its subject and the treatment of its subject. Kathleen 
Lines does not agree: 

. . .the verdicts are wrong. Children, in my experience, do not 
find the story frightening but rather look on it as vaguely sad. 
They love Robin Redbreast, and it is his long work, fetching 
leaf by leaf in his beak to make a covering for the Babes, that 
they remember, and keep as a lasting picture in the mind's 

When this attitude prevails, it is because the child's 
interest is shifted to the action of the robin, just as the 
recitation at the end of "Red Riding Hood" is diver- 
sionary. Children are also protected by their innocence; 
they have no concept of personal mortality. Overall, 
"Babes in the Woods" appears to have little contem- 
porary appeal and, as it has few redeeming factors, it 
may be just as well if this tale retreats into the province 
of scholars.'^ 

"Babes in the Wood", "Hansel and Gretel", and 
"Little Red Riding Hood" are about young children; it 
is more usual for the fairy and folk tales to be 
concerned with the fate of young adults. Thus, the 
children enjoying the stories have the distance from 


personal identification increased by age difference as 
well as by difierences of time and place. The protago- 
nists are young princesses or princes, girls and boys of 
marriageable age. The stories are frequently about their 
transition into rightful adult inheritance as kings or 
queens or, at the very least, as rulers of their own 
personal fate. 

While young children in fairy tales are not always 
helpless - Hansel and Gretel save themselves - many of 
the adolescents need to depend on magic or the advice 
and help of supernatural beings. None the less, unlike 
Hansel and Gretel whose dearest wish was to return 
home, the maidens and youths are anxious to venture 
forth into the wider world. They confidently expect, 
somehow, to prove themselves. Both Jack the Giant- 
killer and Jack-in-the-Beanstalk are eager to win fame 
and fortune by whatever means comes to hand - 
treachery, violence, supernatural aid. The "History of 
Jack the Giant-killer" was first published in chapbook 
editions in the 1700s, and all manner of children and 
adults were entertained by his bloody exploits. The 
Fieldings - Henry and his sister Sarah, who expressed 
her literary talent in literature for children - as well as 
Samuel Johnson and William Cowper, recorded 
favourable mentions of Jack.' ^ Cowper thought this a 
story in which native humour reigned, often useful and 
always entertaining. 

When "Jack the Giant-killer" has been criticized in 
the past, it has been on grounds of production or style, 
or because stories were held in certain times to be 
unprofitable rubbish. Few critics have been distressed 
with the physical violence throughout the tale. Stupid 
man-eating giants are tricked by Jack and dispatched 
with pick-axe, knife, or Jack's magical sword of sharp- 
ness. Finally he meets his last giant, who cries aloud in 
the traditional manner: 

Fee Fi Fau Fum 

I smell the blood of an Englishman! 
Be he alive or be he dead, 
I'll grind his bones 
To make my bread. 

The formula is common to British tales of cannibalistic 
giants.''* Jack wins over a series of giants, each more 
terrible than the last, until he frees a kingdom, becomes 
a knight of King Arthur's Round Table, marries a 
Duke's beautiful daughter, wins a fortune, and lives 
happily ever after. The numerous killings have little 
reality; they are hurdles to be overcome on Jack's road 
to his adult inheritance. Since the giants represent evil. 
Jack may also be viewed as working for the good of 
society in defeating them. This is explicit when he frees 
people from a giant's bondage. The violence is held 
within an imaginary framework and there would be 
little purpose served in censoring "Jack the Giant- 
killer" or other tales like it on the grounds of violence. 

Fairy and folk tales are the first stories children 
encounter about growing up and passing successfully 
through the difficult trials of maturation. The trials are 

often physical, as when giants are slain or impossible 
tasks are accomplished. The trials also mvolvc the 
control of strong emotions, as revealed in violent 
incidents or fantasies that arise from thoughts of rage, 
hate, and revenge. Stepmothers uniformly appear as 
wicked women in fairy tales. '^ A stepmother is 
frequently the cause of the protagonist's plight. 
Cinderella's jealous and demanding stepmother, who 
promotes and favours her own daughters, is universally 
known. It was the stepmother in "Hansel and Gretel" 
who urged the abandonment of the children and whose 
removal was necessary to the happiness of the family 
unit. The stepmother in "Snow White and the Seven 
Dwarfs" rids herself of Snow White because of the 
sexual rivalry that her stepdaughter represents. As 
stepmothers must always be removed, she dies at the 
conclusion of the story. In some versions the wicked 
queen simply chokes to death on her own thwarted 
rage; in other versions, less concerned with a literarv' 
nemesis and more concerned with a vengeful justice, she 
is forced at the wedding-feast to dance in slippers of 
red-hot iron until she drops dead. 

The heroines in fairy and folk tales witness violent 
acts and even give silent approval. Snow WTiite was not 
as forgiving as Cinderella in the treatment of her step- 
relatives. The heroines, however, are not aggressive and 
do not engage in acts of deadly assault. TTiere is the odd 
exception, as when Gretel (manfully) seizes the oppor- 
tunity to push the witch into the oven. Maidens are 
always modest and passive as they enter their inher- 
itance of marriage, even though the stories can still 
feature bloody violence. 

"Blue Beard", recounted by Perrault and generations 
since, tells of the young woman who marries a fearsome 
blue-bearded man. The man is terrifying, both because 
of his physical appearance and because he has been 
married to several wives who have disappeared. No 
matter, the girl's life is filled with fine dresses, jewels, 
and delightful pleasantries. Forbidden to her is a single 
room in the house. Her curiousity overcomes her 
promise not to enter the room. When, in fear and 
trembling, she unlocks the door, she finds a room with 
walls clotted in blood and the corpses of murdered 
wives ranged against the walls. As the blood will not 
wash from the key. her act is discovered and she is 
condemned to join the other wives. Suspense in the 
story is built as she begs time to pray and sends her 
sister. Anne, to look for her brothers who have 
promised to visit. At the very moment when Blue Beard 
has grasped her by her long flowing hair and is about to 
cut oflTher head with his cutlass, the brothers arrive and 
run Blue Beard through with their swords. Blue Beard's 
fortune goes to the lady, who shortly makes a happy 
second marriage. 

The legend of "Blue Beard" has been attributed to 
many sources. The most common derives from the 
factual accounts of Gilles de Rais (1404-1440). a 
Marshal of France who distinguished himself on the 


battlefield as a companion of Joan of Arc. He also 
distinguished himself, even for medieval times, as an 
appalling torturer and sexual murderer of children and 
young people. Finally, when his position no longer 
could protect his excesses, he confessed and was burned 
alive near Nantes. There is little historic fact known, but 
there is enough to give some credence to the possible 
reflection of de Rais in "Blue Beard". 

Tales of the "Blue Beard" genre are widespread. A 
German version collected by the Brothers Grimm is 
"The Robber Bridegroom"; and the English equivalent, 
"Mr. Fox", was current in the eighteenth century.'* The 
tale is short, and easily told, and has a strong rhyth- 
mical sense that delights children who hear it now, and 
who sit entranced as the suspenseful story unravels. The 
Lady Mary decides to marry the rich, gallant, and 
mysterious Mr. Fox. Before the wedding. Lady Mary 
visits her future home and sees above the gate a sign 
which says: 


Further along, above a doorway, is another sign: 


and then: 



Lady Mary discovers the blood-stained bodies and 
skeletons of beautiful young brides and surmises her 
fate. Just then, Mr. Fox approaches with yet another 
victim. Quickly. Lady Mary hides. Mr. Fox espies a 
diamond on the hand of the dead woman and tries to 
pull it ofi". When it will not come, he curses and swears. 
He draws his sword, raises it, and brings it down upon 
the poor lady's hand. The sword cuts off" the hand, 
which flies into the air, and falls - of all places - in the 
Lady Mary's lap. The next morning, which is supposed 
to be the wedding day. Lady Mary tells Mr. Fox of her 
visit to the bloody chamber, as if it were a dream. At 
each stage of the telling, Mr. Fox says, "It is not so, nor 
it was not so, and God forbid it should be so!" At the 
crucial moment, the Lady Mary cries out in turn, "But 
it is so, and it was so, here's hand and ring I have to 
show." She pulls the severed hand from her dress, and 
points it straight at Mr. Fox. At once, her brothers draw 
their swords and cut Mr. Fox into a thousand pieces. 

In "Blue Beard" and "Mr. Fox", there is the motif of 
the one prohibition. One act, one question is forbidden, 
all else allowed. It was so in the Garden of Eden. It was 
so in the story of Pandora's box in Greek mythology. 
Whatever the anthropological or psychological expla- 
nation of this universal motif of one taboo, it is clear 
that an awful punishment must follow its breaking. 
Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, but that is 
unlikely to be a satisfactory punishment from the child's 
viewpoint. Pandora, the first woman, allowed all ills 
except hope to escape and to henceforth be visited upon 

mankind. Again, children are unlikely to appreciate the 
visitation of vague ills as a terrible punishment, and 
they are much too naive to ponder the presence of hope 
in a box of ills. Intellectually, children only appreciate 
physical violence as horrifying. What lies behind the 
closed door must be as awful, as bloody, as their 
imagining can conceive, so mutilated and multiple 
corpses seem appropriate. Retribution upon the evil- 
doer must be in similar measure, so Mr. Fox is not 
simply killed but is hacked into a thousand pieces. The 
violence in many of these tales is extravagant speech 
and little more. 

Many tales telling an essentially simple story - 
adventure in a strange place, defeat of an enemy, 
triumph over an obstacle, and .so on - have roots in 
history or social anthropology that explain their 
violence. By and large, the tales are unlikely to frighten, 
and their most usual function is to entertain. Bruno 
Bettelheim, among others, has asserted that a number of 
these tales and the violence in them are positively 
helpful to the psyche.'^ He follows Max Liithi and 
others in asserting that fairy tales are important to a 
child's psychological growth.'^ 

Bettelheim asserts that a central problem for a child is 
ascertaining the meaning in his life and extending that 
meaning to life in general. Initially, parents give the 
necessary help. Then the cultural heritage, which 
reaches the child through first stories, aids in the task. 
Enrichment comes from the stories if they stimulate 
imagination, develop the intellect, and satisfy emotions. 
The stories must reflect the aspirations and anxieties of 
a child, and fairy and folk tales are marvelously attuned 
to the conscious and subconscious thoughts of child- 
hood. Fairy tales suggest solutions and resolutions to 
problems, albeit often violent ones. 

The solutions that children might pose for themselves 
are very often violent. Children at the fairy-tale age can 
feel emotion intensely.''' They are learning moderation 
and rationalization as means of conducting their aflfairs. 
Their fear, their anger, and their hate are emphatic and 
extreme in response to situations that touch them, and 
so it appears only just to a child that rewards be liberal 
and punishment severe. Each person should be 
accorded his share in reward or punishment. G.K. 
Chesterton is frequently paraphrased on this point. He 
once remarked that children are innocent and love 
justice, while adults are wicked and prefer mercy. 

Violence operates as justice in fairy tales. It is a 
suitable conclusion to tales of intrigue and magic deeds; 
it affirms to a child's intellectual and emotional satis- 
faction the fact that evil-doers will be punished and that 
the hero or heroine will be rewarded. The hero or 
heroine is always deserving from a child's point of view, 
although not always virtuous from an adult's point of 
view. This lack of virtue, in an adult's eyes, usually 
focuses on the failure of the central character to be 
dedicated, hard-working, or honest. Some critics of fairy 
tales see this lack of virtue as a detrimental aspect of the 


stories; the central characters often gain large rewards 
by guile and without toil. On the other hand, to blunt 
the criticism, it would appear that both hope and 
comfort are offered to the undeserving in fairy tales. In 
numerous tales, the stupid and unwanted child (or 
adolescent) succeeds in winning the prize. Realistic tales 
are frequently less charitable or more contrived in intro- 
ducing a mechanism that turns the undesirable person 
into someone altered, new and deserving. The realistic 
tale often has a pragmatic basis that is of little psycho- 
logical value to the disturbed child. There are children 
for whom attitude and effort - the praxis underlying 
many realistic or simple anthropomorphic tales - do not 
accomplish a goal. Fairy tales accept the notion that 
luck or magic can help in accomplishing the goal. 

"Happily ever after" may come about if all one 
contributes is hope and a willingness to carry on. 
"Rumpelstiltskin" a common English variant on "Tom 
Tit Tot", is a story of greed, hope, and happy ending. A 
somewhat feckless maiden becomes the bride of a 
greedy king because of her reputed ability to spin straw 
into gold. She enjoys her honeymoon as queen, but 
must bargain with an ugly gnome to get the spinning 
done. She promises either herself or her first-born child. 
She may redeem her promise if she can guess the little 
man's name. Luck rescues her, and she is able to name 
the little man and continue on in her unearned position 
as queen. She is a hopeful person and her optimism is 
rewarded. The little man stamps with rage and dashes 
his foot and leg deep into the floor. In his fearsome rage, 
he then pulls at his leg so fiercely that he tears himself in 
two. Rumpelstiltskin's self-destructive act is extravagant 
but appropriate if the symbolism of the power of names 
is appreciated.^'' The greedy queen reverses the balance 
of power between the dwarf and herself. She frees 
herself from obligation, and indeed demonstrates a 
power over the dwarf. The children identify with the 
young queen and they learn to hope for happy outcome. 

The tapestry of fairy and folk tale is woven of many 
layered strands, violence being but one strong thread. 
Violence is present as retribution, as extravagant 
speech, and as awesome consequence of breaking a 
formidable taboo. It would be neither possible nor 
useful to pull the thread of violence away from the 
weave of fairy and folk tale. Violence is securely held 
within the fabric and is an integral part of the design. 


Chapter Six 


Illustration plays a major part in children's literature. 
Much critical evaluation is directed toward the art and 
the artist. Illustrators become as well-known as the 
authors who write for children, particularly when they 
illustrate anonymous folk or fairy tales. Pictures help 
young readers to visualize characters and to understand 
the action of stories and poems. A child's first picture- 
book may well be a story told without the help of text. 
Such illustration must be graphic in order to clearly 
present the story. Cartoons or sketches which 
exaggerate qualities succeed in doing this pictographic 
presentation very well. 

Walt Disney has built an industry on this cartoon 
exaggeration. This industry has both champions and 
critics. Certainly, because of their exposure to a Disney 
world in other media, young children rapidly learn to 
identify Disney productions, and they want to buy and 
to read Disney products.' His champions applaud the 
family or nature-centred stories; his fare is decent, 
healthy, sanitary, and always has a happy ending. His 
detractors point out that he oversimplifies nature, often 
for a sentimental end.^ Critics of his presentation of 
creative literature feel that he mutilates folk and fairy 
tale, disregarding anthropological, psychological, or 
spiritual truths.^ Critics of his style of illustration assert 
that he both stereotypes and grossly exaggerates. He 
frequently uses garish pictures in which all princesses 
are blonde sex symbols, all princes gorgeous young 
men, and all evil persons overdrawn. Stepsisters and 
stepmothers are misshapen and ugly; evil queens appear 
like comic book dragon-ladies, with black upswept hair, 
pointed eyebrows, and glaring eyes. The big, black wolf 
has slavering grinning jaws and cannot be mistaken for 
anyone's Grandmother. Children respond to these illus- 
trations immediately with an indrawn breath of 
suspense, released in giggles or screams. The critics 
point out that children constantly reacting to these 
overdrawn characters never realize nuance, nor develop 
sensitivity, and are gradually prepared only to expect or 
to accept exaggeration in illustration or in incident as 
they grow older. 

The way thus is paved for the constant comic-book 
situation; this is discussed at length in Fredric 

Wertham's Seduction of Innocent (Rinehart, 1954). 
Wertham, a psychiatrist, documented his opinion on the 
eff'ects of comic books on the minds and behaviour of 
children. He specifically examined crime comics in an 
era, the 1950s, when the incidence and illustration of 
violence, latent pornography, sadism, and cruelty in 
comic books were being discussed in government 
commissions and parent/teacher groups.'* Der Struwwel- 
peter a children's book of horrors (though none quite as 
graphic in torture as crime comics) put on a spurt of 
sales in 1955 when crime comics were being debated in 
the British Parliament. Der Struwwelpeter - in transla- 
tion, Shockheaded or Slovenly Peter - published in 

The English Struwwelpeter or Pretty Stories 
and Funny Pictures for Little Children, 
by Heinrich Hoffmann, c. 1860 


English in 1948, was written by a Frankfurt doctor, 
Heinrich Hoffmann, to entertain his own children and 
young patients. The book contained nonsense verses 
and drawings about children with enormously bad 
habits and very rude manners. It is a book of "awful 
warning", not meant to be taken seriously. Indeed, for 
its time at least, it was more lively and more enter- 
taining than the dull moralistic children's books charac- 
teristic of the mid-nineteenth century. Parents who 
introduce Struwwelpeter to their children today report 
that one child may shrug away the stories while another 
will be very frightened by the great long, red-legged 
scissor-man who cuts off thumbs and leaves poor 
Conrad crippled, his bleeding hands hanging limply by 
his sides. Three of the universally known German books 
for children have been criticized for the cruelties they 
contain - Hoffmann's Struwwelpeter, Wilhelm Busch's 
Max und Mortiz (1865), and Grimm's Marchen. Neither 
Busch (1832-1908), who produced satirical illustrated 
verse for Fliegende Blatter, nor Hoffmann (1809-1894) 
were concerned to modify their art for children's 
viewing. Hoffmann is said to have checked the 
woodcuts or lithographs from his sketches to ensure 
that "nothing pretty-pretty" was admitted.^ 

Max und Moritz, by Wilhelm Busch, c. 1865 

The influence of German illustration can be traced in 
modern illustrators like Maurice Sendak (1928- ) or 
Tomi Ungerer (1931- ). George Cruikshank (1792- 
1878), illustrator of Dickens, supplied the 22 full-page 
engravings for the first English edition of Grimm's tales, 
German Popular Stories, issued in 1823-26. Cruickshank 
also did not tailor his art to an audience of children, 
although it is true that most widely known illustrators of 
Grimm's have not emphasized the horrific aspects of the 
tales. The actual function of much of children's illustra- 
tion, then, has been to clarify, by visual presentation, 
elements within the stories. When these elements are 
horrific, violent, or cruel, the illustrations may either 
increase or decrease the effect. The pictures may soothe 
the ugliness in a text or divert attention from it by 
drawing visual attention to some other item, such a? 
fanciful characters or the environs of the tale. The 
picture may exaggerate the horror for a sensitive child 
by making visually graphic that which his imagination 
could not conceive. This is unfortunate, but it is largely 
unpredictable because the reactions of children are so 
individual. Catherine Storr, a children's author, tells 
about one of her children who was frightened by both a 
tale and an illustration in one of Andrew Lang's 
coloured fairy books. The child fearfully thought of the 
story as the "hatchet picture you mustn't let me see".^ 

Some purists think that fairy and folk tale in 
particular ought not to be illustrated, but simply told. 
The telling creates its own imaginary landscape painted 
by the child. A child may create a not-too-fearful witch 
or ogre, or a wolf that is large, but not unmanageably 
so. A child can usually cope with personal imaginings, 
but may not be able to assimilate pictorial horrors 
created by someone else. Nightmares and nasty 
memories are the results. 

However, it is now taken for granted that children's 
books will be illustrated; the younger the child the book 
is written for, the greater the amount of illustration. The 
illustrated text, whether for children or adults, has a 
long history - as long as printing itself The first books 
had pictures that were crude in content and in execu- 
tion. They undoubtedly frightened some children and 
delighted others. 

Until recent times adults do not seem to have worried 
about violence in the illustrations. Jack the Giant-killer 
has always been shown at a crucial moment, pick-axe at 
the ready, about to dispose of a giant. The giant is also 
usually shown, stupidly slitting his own belly open, 
fooled into doing so by Jack's example of pretending to 
slit his own stomach (giants and ogres in British lore are 
usually stupid). The chapbooks containing the Jack 
tales and similar stories of conquest are like early comic 
books, the pictures supporting and advancing the story. 
The reading of these chapbooks was widespread among 
children and adults of the seventeenth through 
nineteenth centuries. 

These booKS of former times tend to reflect an 
attitude that condoned frightening children for the 


Jack the Giant-killer chapbook, c. 1830 

purpose of subduing them to the useful and the good. 
The Georgians and the Victorians were not squeamish 
about putting physical or mental violence into books for 
children. A message, graphically presented in text and 
illustration, was meant to warn, to lift one's thoughts to 
heaven, as in the martyrology of John Foxe. Still in 
print today, editions or abridgements of Foxe's Book of 
Martyrs were surely perused for gruesome illustrations. 
The pictures in nineteenth-century editions were more 
violent than in the original sixteenth-century concep- 
tion. Illustrations exaggerate the text. Illustration can 
also be used to ameliorate the text by increasing the 
distance between the reader and the story. 

Both versions of the historical tale "Babes in the 
Wood" in print today show the young children dressed 
in the fashions of a hundred or more years before they 
were published. Caldecott (1879) showed his characters 
in Shakespearian costume (tinted Victorian black for 
mourning) while Ardizzone (1 97 1) showed his children 
m Dickensian period costumes. Caldecott showed the 
dead children in the centre of the last illustration. 
Ardizzone, with greater delicacy, in his last illustration 
shows the children, small in a corner, with Robin 
Redbreast prominent in the foreground. 

Ardizzone, interviewed on the subject of his artistic 
style, suggested that the best effects are achieved 
through understatement. The minimum of line should 
suggest the expression or action. "One shouldn't telJ the 
reader too much. The best view of a hero, I always fee', 
is a back view." Illustrations should leave .something for 
the child to supply. This view is contrary to that of the 
Disney school of art, where the expected audience 
reaction is planned to the last detail.^ 

Ardizzone is both author and illustrator, and his 
books have sometimes been criticized - particularly the 
"Tim" books - because of themes of unreality and 
separation. Tim is a little boy of resolute character who, 
at the early age of five, goes to sea. Tim has dangerous 

%if ^^^ 

Illustration by Edward Ardizzone from the Old Ballad of the 
Babes in the Wood 

adventures and faces death, shipwreck, and fire. 
Ardizzone's personal favourite is Tim All A lone (Oxford, 
1956), which won the British Kate Greenaway Medal in 
1956 for the most distinguished contribution to 
children's book illustration. It is an emotional book in 
which young Tim arrives home from the sea only to find 
a sign on his house: 


Tim is a stoical little boy, resolutely prepared to 
undertake a search for a missing parent. Generally, 
Ardizzone is praised for these sturdy characterizations. 
Ardizzone's heroines, Lucy and Charlotte, are equally 
independent and unsentimental. The Tim stories recall 
the healthy outspokeness of nursery rhyme and folk 
tale; the stories confront the ideas of separation and 
death that are not far from childhood's consciousness. 
A child may be helped by following Tim's example of 
stoicism and perseverance. Ardizzone's illustrations 
complement and elaborate the text; they do not 
overwhelm the child. 

The modern Tim series recalls Tommy Grimes from 
English fairy tale and folklore. Evaline Ness's illustra- 
tions in Mr. Miacca: An English Folk Tale (Holt, 
Rinehart, Winston, 1967) mitigate the violence in 
Tommy's story. Mr. Miacca has been censured as fright- 
ening, for he is a bogeyman who boils and eats disobe- 
dient children whom he catches away from home. 
Clever Tommy tricks Mr. Miacca, not once, but twice! 
Children like the short story because it is suspenseful, 
and because Tommy is clearly a match for Mr. Miacca. 


The illustrated version lengthens the brief story, without 
emphasizing the elements of violence and cannibalism. 

The use of pages of pictures tends to submerge the 
baldly stated facts of a short telling and to create a 
solidly imaginary world as context. The setting is 
removed into the delightful nursery rhyme hodge-podge 
of architecture and costume. Tommy is an insouciant 
Dickensian urchin, and a child can enjoy the story with 
absolute faith in Tommy's ability to triumph. 

Max, in Where the Wild Things Are (Harper and Row, 
1963) is also, like Tommy, pictured as being in control 
of the situation. This book, an original story created by 
author-illustrator Maurice Sendak, drew some unfav- 
ourable initial criticism. Max is an unruly little boy who 
has been banished Vo his room without supper for acting 
like a wild thing. There, in dream, he voyages to the 
land of wild things and back again, to find his supper 
waiting for him after all. Sendak has said that Max is his 
favourite creation: the incident is based on personal 
childhood memory and is a kind of exorcism in that 
Max controls the nightmare. But, one reviewer asks, are 
children ever in charge of a nightmare? The book has 

. . . disturbing possibilities for the child who does not need this 
catharsis. Each child has his own fears and a catharsis is an 
individual matter. The pictures rate technically very high; 
some of them are beautiful. How children feel about the whole 
book remains to be seen.* 

The book won a Caldecott Medal as a distinguished 
American picture book in 1964, and has been 
enormously popular with children who delight to have it 
presented in classroom story-hours. Another reviewer 
who said adults would query the book for many reasons 
also, quite rightly, said that children would accept it 

Max is anywhere from four to eight years old. He is 
the aggressor who easily tames the wild things, monsters 
who are grinning beasts. He becomes their king, puts a 
golden crown on his head, and prances about as their 
leader. Sendak thought that unconsciously he was very 
influenced by King Kong and other monster films. His 
literary life as a child in New York City was dominated 
by movies, Walt Disney, and comic books. Sendak was 
the first American artist to win a Hans Christian 
Andersen Medal, in 1970; this medal is awarded by the 
International Board on Books for Young People, for an 
outstanding contribution to children's literature. In his 
acceptance speech, and in interviews, he has spoken of 
the children's books that have influenced his work. 
Some of these books he claims to have read in a late- 
blooming childhood. He was, he felt, deeply influenced 
by the German illustrators like Randolph Caldecott and 
George Cruickshank. Grimm's tales particularly 
appealed to Sendak, especially the first English edition 
illustrated by Cruikshank. He admired Der 

. . . graphically, it is one of the most beautiful books in the 
world. One might complain about the cutting off of fingers, and 
the choking to death, and being burned alive, and one might 

well have a case there but esthetically, for an artist growing 
up it was a good book to look at.'" 

Sendak was pleased to illustrate an edition of Grimm's 
tales a two-volume work called The Juniper Tree 
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1974). This work was 
published as much, if not more, for the adult reader as 
for the younger reader. The illustrations are identifiably 
Sendak; not one of his black-and-white drawings is as 
violent as the stories in this edition. The difficult text 
primarily reflects an adult's interest in exactitude of 
retelling rather than a child's interest in adaption of an 
older folk tale. 

In addition to the commonly heard tales of the 
Grimm brothers, like "Rapunzel", "Hansel and Gretel", 
and "The Frog King", there are tales like "The Juniper 
Tree", "Godfather Death", and "Many-Fur" (a tale of 

"The Juniper Tree" tells the story of how a 
stepmother kills her stepson and sets his dead body by 
the door. She encourages her own daughter to box the 
boy's ears so that his severed head falls. The child, Ann 
Marie, is horrified, screams, and runs to her mother who 
blames her daugher, saying, "Ann Marie what have you 
done! Keep quiet and nobody will know. It can't be 
helped, we will make him into a stew." So the mother 
chops the boy to pieces, stews him and serves him to his 
father for supper; 

My mother she butchered me. 
My father he ate me. 
My sister, little Ann Marie, 
She gathered up the bones of me 
And tied them in a silken cloth 
To lay under the juniper tree. 

There follows a long unwinding in which forgiveness 
comes to Ann Marie and the father and retribution 
comes to the stepmother - her head is squashed by a 
millstone. The young boy is miraculously resurrected 
from the steaming ashes of his stepmother. The family is 
reunited without the mother and, hands joined in happi- 
ness, they go into the house, sit down at table, and eat 
their supper. 

"Godfather Death" tells the story of the poor man 
with many children who gives his last-born son to 
Death as godfather, because Death in the end makes all 
men equal. Death helps his godson to become a famous 
physician by giving the lad an herb that prolongs life. 
When the young doctor misuses his gift. Death takes 
him to an underground place and there shows him the 
stub of his candle of life. The young man begs his 
godfather to lengthen his candle, which is burning low. 
Death agrees, only to drop purposely the new taper and 
so cause the young man to die. 

The task of illustrating such stories appropriately is 
not an easy one. Sendak, with his squatty figures and 
closely hatched lines that recall the artists of the last 
century, succeeds. The pictures are very appropriate to 
the text. They hint subtly at violent elements, as when a 
hanged man's feet extend down into a picture from a 
top margin in "The Two Journeymen". 


This tale concerns two trademen, a carefree, generous 
tailor and a prudent, selfish cobbler, who make a long 
journey together. On the trip, the cobbler sells morsels 
of life-sustaining bread to his friend, for the price of 
cutting out first one eye and then the other eye. At 
night, in pain and weariness, the tailor sleeps beneath a 
gallows on which two poor sinners are hanged. One of 
the dead men speaks and tells the tailor to bathe his 
eyes with dew from the corpses and gallows intermin- 
gled. This dew will restore sight. The illustration is not 
as unpleasant as either the language or the content. The 
language is rhythmic in tone, and has the archaic 
flavour of lovingly-told tales, polished in their gruesome 
style. Children not frightened by the tales in Grimm will 
hardly be frightened by Sendak's drawings. 

In the context of this report, permission was 
denied for the reproduction of illustrations by 
Maurice Sendak from The Juniper Tree. 

Reviewers have called The Juniper Tree Sendak's best 
work yet, monumental and compelling. The pen-and- 
ink drawings are small, but the figures loom large, filling 
the space with hypnotic power. Two reviewers' 
comments are relevant: 

The wicked Queen in "Snow White" is like no other artist's - a 
motherly middle-aged woman pensively smiling. Only her 
bright, fixed gaze betrays her obsessive narcissism, her joy 
when she thought she had eaten Snow White's lung and Uver." 

All the same, I don't think I'd recommend these volumes for 
the nursery shelves, just like that. It's true that the worst stories 
(in respect, that is, of the terror they might cause) have the best 
endings. The fiercer twists of these folk tales - even their more 
brutal turns of humour - might disturb any child reading them 
alone. '^ 

The close, dark line drawings of Sendak resemble in 
some way the illustrations of Gustave Dore who 
engraved the plates for Les Contes de Perrault (1862). 
Dore's wolf in bed with a surprised Red Riding Hood is 
a masterpiece, a delicate hinting at lasciviousness. An 
illustration from the story of "Little Poucet", showing 
an ogre about to cut the throats of his seven daughters, 
was suppressed in the first English edition of the these 
tales. Dore, like many of the best illustrators of 
children's work, did not illustrate primarily for children 
but for adults and children alike. 

The American Maurice Sendak and the Englishman 
Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) have been contrasted as 
the two twentieth-century artists who represent opposite 
extremes in illustration for children's books. '^ Sendak 
creates a psychological atmosphere at one with the text 
he illustrates, but Rackham produces a fantastical 
invention that is a cameo piece, replete with details of 

Illustration by Gustave Dore from 

"Little Poucet", Les Contes de Perrault, c. 1862 

costume and setting. Rackham's emotional detachment 
may primarily appeal to adults and not always to the 
children. He is an artist who can clarify the text but who 
can also complement it by his imaginative interpreta- 
tion. Rackham admits that he was at one period very 
strongly influenced by the unusual genius of Aubrey 
Beardsley. His illustrations have appeared to at least 
one critic to be: 

. . . unnecessarily repulsive ... so often his characters, even the 
good ones, peer out of the dark embellished with carbuncles, 
thin dripping noses, gnarled and deformed limbs, cracking skin 
and tusk-like teeth. Like the forest scene in Disney's Snow 
White his trees sprout clutching misshapen arms and hideous 
chuckling faces, effective but also rather gratuitous in their 
seeming desire to frighten children at all costs.'" 

This may be true but, none the less, Rackham's illustra- 
tions kept the frightening fantasies at bay by clearly 
indicating that the land was make-believe, a kingdom of 

Rackham spanned the century, dying on the eve of 
the World War H, at the close of a golden age of 
children's book illustration. War and post-war 
economies aff'ected children's publishing and it was not 
until the 1960s that a resurgence of illustration in 
children's work once again took place. New techniques 
both in art and in printing allowed the re-emergence of 
artists, particularly in Europe, who used children's 
books as vehicles for series of pictures on the subject. 
These pictures may not be violent, but rather simply 
incomprehensible to children, as artists can express 
themselves without much regard for the children's 
tastes. Several critics, and artists themselves, have 
commented on either poor illustrations in both cheap 
and quality texts or poor texts accompanying 
handsome, well-produced (and expensive) picture 


Illustration by Arthur Rackham from 
"Hop-o'-my-thumb", The Arthur Rackham Fairy Book 

Children, the audience that ultimately should be 
satisfied, appear to tolerate almost any illustration, 
provided the story is one they enjoy. Bad art is easy to 
understand, usually accompanies stories with all the 
popular elements, and is readily available in the cheaper 
editions of children's books. 

Excellent art may sometimes be inaccessible; it may 
be too abstract, surrealistic, or unusual for children to 
appreciate unless accompanied by an absorbing story 
with which children can identify. At present, English 
and American books are less likely to be influenced in 
this direction, but there are definitely artists who are 
producing material that is as much for adults as for 
children. Charles Keeping of Britain is such an artist. 
The list of books he has illustrated is long; in recent 
books his illustrations have become much more 
forceful. He illustrated two controversial novels based 
on Greek mythology: The God Beneath the Sea 
(Longman, 1970) and The Golden Shadow (Longman, 
1973), by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen. Leon 
Garfield is a writer of historical fiction for children; he 
has been called a child's Dickens. Edward Blishen is an 
educator, editor, and author of children's books. These 

men collaborated to produce two novels, updatmg 
Greek mythology by removmg the Victorian upholstery 
and placing the tales m a narrative framework. The 
basis for this refurbishing was Robert Ciraves' The 
Greek Myths; it became in these authors' hands a 
continuous account of the origin of the world, of the 
struggle of man against the mysterious elements that 
surround him and against his own nature. Blishen 

[We] have for a long time been concerned with what seems to 
us to be something that's happening inside children's literature, 
and is happening inside society as a whole. We're no longer 
quite so sure what children are, or who children are. or when 
children are. We must all be aware that in the last few years 
children's literature has been moving, at its senior end, closer 
and closer to adult literature. This book has certainly taken us 
further than we've ever been taken before in our writing for 
children. It has taken us very far indeed. We believe that it was 
essential to go as far as we have in our treatment of human 
passion and of violence, of necessary cosmic violence. We felt 
this must be done, it was right to do it, because these are the 
themes, the concerns, the preoccupations with which our 
children are, we know, at the moment filled. We oflTer no 
apology for what we hope is the meaningful violence which is 
written into our version, nor for our reference to the strongest 
of human passions.'* 

Reviewers were divided in their opinions about how 
well these authors succeeded in presenting these myths 
not as an antiquated collection but as a coherent 
account. One reviewer said that the myths were zestfully 
retold, "with striking flashes of language", "stripped of 
pseudoclassical draperies" and presented in a "highly 
coloured primitive atmosphere".'^ Another reviewer. 
Alan Garner, himself a notable re-creator of mythology 
for children, calls the book rubbish, very bad, and 
impossible to read! The prose is "overblown Victoriana 
. . . cliche ridden . . . falsely poetic, a grandiloquent 
mess."'^ The review continues, quoting from the book: 

Worst of all the authors are so coy in their efforts to be trank 

about sexuality that only the cumulative absurdity saves them 

from prurience: 

". . . and in a white passion of wings [he] quenched his restless 


"the Titan's daughter was already quick with child" 

"her time was at hand" 

"her gown was torn, her hair awry and everything about her 

proclaimed her ruin". 

Whatever the text, the drawings emphasize the eff'ect 
"relating the stories to the primitive roots of myth, 
rather than to the civilized commentators."'^ The illus- 
trator Charles Keeping ( 1 924- ) "justifies the 
survival of Greek mythology ... a singular vision of 
what Classical myth must have been. Two drawings 
especially - Cronus and Prometheus - are more terrible 
and beautiful than Goya."-" That praise is also a tnfle 
overblown, although not entirely inept. 

The drawings certainly removed the Victorian uphol- 
stery, and are a departure from the Attic vase style of 
illustration that often accompanies these tales. Keeping 


"Cronus" by Charles Keeping from The God Beneath the Sea 
by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen 

finds the myths disgusting because they are devoid oF 
love and contain lust, rape, revenge, and violence of 
every kind.^' As an artist he dislikes the problems 
presented by costume, authenticity, and the freezing of 
picture/text into a particular moment in time; he is 
concerned with people, emotions, and reactions in a 
violent context. In order to project this violence and 
cruelty visually. Keeping tries for a symbolic overtone, 
and he leaves the final decision to the viewers. The 
black-and-white drawings are emphatic, illuminating, 
and upsetting. In this case, the illustrations, rather than 
alleviating the eff'ect of the text, actually augment the 
physical and psychological violence. 

Talking on illustration generally. Keeping has 
defended himself against the charge that picture books 
today may be disturbing to children. ^^ His defence is 
that it was diflficult to see how anything could be more 
disturbing than the violence in such tales as The Juniper 
Tree. Keeping feels that with the immediacy and impact 
of film, his books have changed. His recent books are 
consciously unlike any of his earlier works. As an 
author-illustrator he has recently produced three books 
that were originally turned down for publication 

"Prometheus" by Charles Keeping from The God Beneath the 
Sea by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen 

because of the sophistication of the themes. One picture 
hook, Joseph's Kar^ (Oxford, 1969), deals with loneli- 
ness, jealousy, and death. Another, The Garden Shed 
(Oxford, 1971), deals with humiliation. 

The third. Through the Window (Oxford, 1970), for 
children in kindergarten through Grade Three, is about 
boredom and indifference. Keeping said that it deals 
with the rejection of an unwanted sight, and that the 
sudden violence which results in a death is "shown but 
not in its worst sense". ^^ In the picture book, Joseph, the 
boy in the story, watches the street below through his 
window. An old woman and her dog live on the street. 
One day, Joseph sees the dog trampled by galloping 
horses from a nearby brewery. The old woman then 
picks up her dog. Joseph mists his window pane with his 
breath and draws a stick figure of the woman carrying 
her dog. Both dog and woman are smiling. The stick 
figures are crude, as a child's would be, and are not 
unduly alarming. There have not been widespread 
reports on children's reactions to this picture book. It is 
quite possible that the book vaguely confuses rather 
than frightens or disturbs. It is an adult critic who has 
pointed out that, since the text must be read without 


reference to any of the illustrator's background 
comments on the symbolism, the apparent pleasure of 
all parties in the scene is difficult to interpret. Even 
understanding the author's purpose does not make the 
book less disturbing, only more intelligible. How does a 
child react to or understand Joseph's response to this 
unhappy incident? Is the boy pretending that death has 
not happened? Keeping would agree with that interpre- 
tation. Is such a pretence a good defence for a child if, 
for example, the child faces the grief of a pet's death? 
This pretence is neither a healthy nor a useful concept 
to present in a picture book. 

Through the Window is one of the books mentioned in 
"Themes of Violence in Picture Books", a short paper 
by Karen Harris presented at an annual convention of 
the New York State English Council in 1974.^'* She finds 
it a most distressing book, and would probably agree 
that Keeping has entered a stage of very mature, 
powerful, and disturbing artwork. Harris also criticizes 
two other children's books for using violence heavy- 
handedly to present moral issues. 

The Hunter, the Tick and the Gumeroo (Cowles, 1971), 
by George Mendoza is a moral tale, though not readily 
comprehended by children. The theme is that man 
destroys his own life in his destruction of wild life. A 
suitable moral for the ecologically conscious generation, 
but not suitably presented. A hunter, on the trail of the 
fierce gumeroo, shoots first a rabbit and then a quail as 
he goes along. A small wood tick attached itself to his 
cheek and, as the hunter scratches, a lump grows 
around the tick. Quickly and malignantly the lump 
grows, until in desperation, the hunter turns his gun 
upon himself- or at least upon the monstrous growth 
engulfing him. The lump recedes, and the man is left 
dead with a neat bullet hole in the centre of his 
forehead. A pessimistic book, showing suicide to the 
child. Would a more constructive tale have resulted if 
the hunter's lump, like Pinocchio's nose, was reduced in 
size every time the hunter performed an ecologically 
good deed? 

Another book Harris mentions is a much criticized 
picture book. Bang Bang You're Z)ea^ (Harper and 
Row, 1969), by Fitzhugh and Scoppettone. The 
publisher's jacket on this book states that it is a simple 
and effective presentation of a child's first discovery of 
the reality of war. The moral is a pacifist one. In the 
book, a number of children play at war on a favourite 
hill. When rivals appear to claim the hill, a real street 
fight with sticks and stones is fought on a pre-arranged 
day. The text is as graphic as are the pictures: 

"Give up, puke face. You don't have have a chance," said 
Big Mike. 

"Up your nose, you freak-out," yelled James. 

Many children are hurt. Violence is the central 
commitment of a book purporting to sell peace. The 
book is 29 pages long; there are 30 individual sketches 
of bruised, bleeding children, and nine pages are 

devoted to the battle. The incidence of violence is 
magnified when it occupies the full-page spreads of a 
picture book. In longer books, violence may be much 
more diminished by being in only one visual represent- 
ation among many, or by being present in only a few 
paragraphs among pages of text. In long stories, 
violence may well act as justice, a summation in a 
paragraph or two. At the end of Bang, Bang .... the 
children decide that it hurts too much to really fight. 
They will share the hill and return to pretend wars and 
cries of "Bang, bang, you're dead." The jacket's claim is 
not tenable; children's fisticuffs are not actual war, and 
while the moral may be a good and useful one, it is lost 
and denied in a book whose pictorial and textual 
content is given over to violence. 


Illustration by Louise Fitzhugh from Bang Bang You're Dead 
by Louise Fitzhugh and Sandra Scoppettone 

Harris also mentions a picture book by Jean I omi 
lingerer. The Beast of Monsieur Racine (Farrar. Straus 
and Giroux, 1971), with particular reference to the 
background pictures that show a world in chaos. The 
violent backdrop is in contrast to the non-violent 
humorous tale. Mr. Racine discovers a strange beast in 
his garden. This beast becomes an object of scientific 
curiosity. Before an audience of scientists, the beast 
reveals itself as two giggling children. What an embar- 
rassment for Mr. Racine and the learned gentlemen! 
There is a riot in the gallery. Mr. Racine understands 
and forgives the children their prank, so all remain 
friends. A gentle satire upon learned societies, a funny 
story, and a non-violent one except for the background. 
Here there are various maimed, trapped animals or 
people violated or violating. There are the acts of the 
rioters - individually, as when a man breaks a chair 
over a woman's head, and collectively, as when the 
crowd overturns a bus. A woman shoves her arm into a 
man's mouth, while cripples display empty sleeves or 
artificial limbs. In a humorous tale with a good stor) . 
why include gratuitous violence? .Although the beast. 
Mr. Racine, and the characters are all line drawings and 
odd looking, they are not shown as living in a fantasy 
world. These people may be caricatures, but they are all 


operating in a context ot reality. They are human Deings 
behaving in aggressive, hostile, and murderous ways. 
This book won The New York Times Choice of Best 
Illustrated Children's Books of the Year in 1971 and a 
Children's Book Showcase Title in 1972: "the artist is in 
rare form, liberally spreading his particular kind of 
madness - in full colour - over every page. The double 
spreads are Hogarthian with caricature and frenetic 
activity; to children the pictures will be roaring 
slapstick. "^-'^ lingerer, even more than Sendak, has been 
accepted slowly as a children's author-illustrator. His 
work as an artist for adults has been more widely 
acknowledged. His poster art is possibly pornographic, 
often bizarre, and nearly always satirical, like that of his 
artistic mentor Wilhelm Busch.^^ 

In lingerer's work for children, the satire is more 
controlled and, although elements of the bizarre creep 
in, the ending is always happy. His tales are filled with 
disaster, accidents, mechanical breakdowns, and the 
casual violence of modern life. In The Hat (Parents' 
Magazine Press, 1970) a dashing cadet, while flirting 
with a young mother, flicks the ashes of his fat cigar into 
an occupied baby carriage. Is the occupant to be 
incinerated? The style of illustration is the open sketch, 
possibly a lampoon for parents and a cartoon for 
children. This type of picture is cited as an example 

... of Lingerer's clear-eyed documentation of the folly and the 
wickedness rampant in the world. . . . The excitement he 
provides is out of the daily range of most well cared-for 
children and responsible adults, but it always seems to be 
within the realm of life's larger possibilities, the very ones that 
cause us all so much hidden anxiety.-'' 

In No Kiss for Mother (Harper and Row, 1973), a bad 
spoiled boy-cat exasperates all about him. There is 
quarrelling, fighting and spanking, and tantrums. In the 
far background of one scene, there is a soldier looking 
suspiciously as if he could be a Nazi officer, and the 
grey-black drawings create an unpleasant pre-war 
atmosphere. Only adults may see these disturbing 
nuances; probably the children simply delight in crash- 
bang and rumpus. They must! So much of their liter- 
ature is full of life in a violent uproar. 


The Hal by Tomi Ungerer 


No Kiss for Mother by Tomi Ungerer 

Mucn of the violence is of the slap-stick type, so 
characteristic of animated cartoons of the late 1950s like 
"Bugs Bunny" and "Tom and Jerry", where massive 
violence was dealt to characters who perennially 
snapped back for more assault. A good example is The 
Bear and the Fly (Crown, 1976), a picture book without 
text by Paula Winter. Meant for the very young child 
who can follow the story through pictures, the book 
shows a family of bears. Father Bear tries to swat a fly, 
breaks the house apart, and knocks himself and his 
family unconscious in the attempt. Father Bear acts as a 
young child might, heedlessly hitting out without 
forethought of consequences. Perhaps children enjoy 
this scenario because it often reflects their own 
behaviour. Perhaps, nurtured on television cartoons, 
they simply like to .see violence for the sake of its action 
and surprise. 


The Bear and the FIv by Paula Winter 

Illustrations with violent themes have occurred 
throughout the history of publishing for children, except 
perhaps for some carefully produced books for children 
sheltered in nineteenth-century nurseries. Gruesome 
and frightening illustration even crept into these sanctu- 
aries by way of acceptable nursery literature like 
Mother Goose, "awful warning" stories, and "divine 
songs". Illustration of violence was present in the not- 
quite-so-acceptable but highly popular literature like 
chapbooks, pennv dreadfuls, and comics.^* At worst, 
some ot these illustrations are horrific and surely fright- 
ening to the sensitive child; at best, they are in poor 
taste. Reasons can be advanced to justify, or at least to 
explain, the past and continuing presence of violence in 
children's illustrations. The violent element is hardly 
unexpected, given that so many of the incidents in 
children's literature are violent. Sometimes, the violence 
has been considered by adults to be a positive good, 
having educative value in making explicit the 
punishment that would follow on certain actions. 
Violence is excitement, and therefore an always indis- 
pensable part of popular literature - which, naturally, is 
an economically viable proposition. Popular literature 
follows fashion, and permissiveness is a recognized 
trend in modem media. Children's literature follows the 
fashion of adult literature more slowly, and is always 
censored to some extent. Mass media for adults make it 
possible for the artist-illustrator to depict aspects of 
sexual violence, pornography, and eroticism more 
openly now than in the past. In this area, the artist's 
freedom to express himself has been released from the 
artificial constraint of the publisher's requirements, and 
this new freedom is apparent in children's books. A 
child sees both the newly admitted types of violence 
(sexual) and the age-old types of violence (physical, 
psychological) that intermittently come under attack. 
Children may choose books from the panorama of all 

that has been published for them because, unlike liter- 
ature for adults, children's literature has a timeless 
quality. Children unknowingly read books from the past 
and see the work of long-dead artists. Wilhelm Busch, 
Gustave Dore, Cruikshank, Caldecott, Kate Green- 
away, Walter Crane, Leslie Brooke, Arthur Rackham, 
and so on may be readily viewed in books on sale today 
These past artists exist alongside the presently active 
artists like Sendak, lingerer. Keeping, Ardizzone, Brian 
Wildsmith, Nancy Burkert, Roger Duvoisin, and so on. 
The list is long and honourable. 

Several artists, now as in the past, do not produce 
solely for children. Their work reflects the maturity, 
artistry, and style of individual talent. No one would 
wish it otherwise; lest art for children become the sole 
province of hack workers. There is a great array of art 
for children to view, and it happens that a number of 
talented artists do not choose to emphasize the violent 
aspect of illustration for children. They produce aesthet- 
ically pleasing art, created from non-violent motifs such 
as ethnic costume, fantastic and fabulous fairy 
kingdoms, caricatures, and colourful abstracts and 
collages. Their techniques and their personal modes of 
expression are not attuned to the violent, even when the 
violence is present in the text. These artists alleviate the 
impact of the text, and also give the child a visual 
dimension that extends his perception of art. 

With all the variety of art in children's literature, it is 
difficult if not impossible to measure the quality and 
quantity of violence that appears in chidren's illustra- 
tions. Even if they were measurable, what then? The 
issue of violence would come down to the assessment of 
each individual work. There would be the contribution 
of the artist to consider, and his desire to interpret the 
text freely in graphic terms. There would also be the 
variable influence of a given illustration on an 
individual child. Children should always be encouraged 


to banish the picture that they feel they mustn't see. 
Few persons argue any longer for the natural innocence 
of children and for their over-protection. It is not 
possible nor desirable to shield children from what is 
painful, frightening, or violent; pictures in the child's 
book are part of that presentation. The danger, then, 
lies not in presenting violent material to children but in 
presenting it gratuitously, emphatically, frequently, and 
in a mode that distorts its role. Violence should not be 
glorified, nor consistently presented as a mode of appro- 
priate action. The text of violence should not always be 
given visual emphasis. A visual amplification of 
violence is most apt to happen in the popular art of 
today, the photograph and the comic strip. Children do 
share with the whole community whatever art forms 
exist, and they share in full measure the popular art of 
film and comic strip. As popular art expresses violence, 
children will see violence. Keeping them from viewing 
too much gratuitous violence, or violence unrooted in 
total context, is a two-fold problem. In the first place, 
popular art - which is not often intended for children at 
all but in which children participate - would have to 
become less violent if children are to be prevented from 
seeing violence portrayed. In the second place, the 
exceptional and good-quality art in children's books 
should be made more accessible to all children. It is 
hkely that the first conditions may be met as the 
fashions in art (both the art of illustration and of htera- 
ture) change. If the milieu for expressing violence 
becomes more circumscribed than it is at present - not 
perhaps from the force of law but from the dictates of 
fashion - art will follow suit, particularly art for 
children. The problem of making children's literature 
and good illustration, whether it expresses violence or 
not, more accessible than popular art is extremely 
difficult and not solvable in the foreseeable future. The 
media that create popularity can help lo populanze the 
good as well as the bad. The educators and parents can 
continue to promote children's literature, hoping that 
the solution is to make this literature at least as acces- 
sible as any other popular art, so that children will have 
an opportunity to discriminate in visual taste. 


Chapter Seven 

The Realistic Novel 

The realistic junior novel has become a major part of 
publishing for children and young adults. It is 
welcomed by parents, educators, and librarians on 
several grounds, particularly for older children and 
teenagers who are the audience for most of these books. 
The junior novel is often considered to be a remedy for 
reluctance in reading and so it is promoted in class- 
rooms and school libraries. The National Council of 
Teachers of English issues an annotated list of these 
books for adolescents "to read, to enjoy and to grow 
by." The fifth edition. Your Reading (ncte, 1975) 
includes notes on over 1,500 junior books, both fiction 
and non-fiction. The junior novel encourages reluctant 
readers because its format tends to return to initial steps 
in book introduction - reduced vocabulary, shortened 
sentences, larger or wider-spaced type with fewer lines, 
many illustrations, and action plots or contemporary 
stores. Discursive exposition, descriptive passages, and 
character analysis are largely absent. The strong 
narrative must frequently employ action; the simplest 
action is the excitement or suspense generated from 
physical or emotional violence. Thus, increasing realism 
in these books is often equated with increasing levels of 

In addition to the increased readability of the junior 
novels, there is the argument that these books are 
contemporary, dealing with the realities of adolescent 
hfe today. The ncte recommended booklist for junior 
high students is divided into sections on being adven- 
turous, being free, being a family member, being friends 
and in love, being a member of a minority, being physi- 
cally handicapped, or just growing up. 

The new permissiveness in adult fiction generally has 
filtered into adolescent literature. In many ways this is a 
positive move, allowing certain unhappy or struggling 
teens to realize that their problems are not unique. At 
other times the sordid, violent aspects presented have 
caused critics to assert that children learn attitudes from 
the books that they read, and that the incidence of 
aggression or violence is conducive to anti-social acts. 
Trends in children's literature parallel trends in the 
other mass media. 

For adolescent girls, the material is not overly full of 

violent activity. Cultural, psychological, and biological 
factors tend to inhibit women from becoming the 
aggressive sex. Literature created for girls tends quite 
naturally to reflect these inhibitions. Girls read about 
family relationships, romances, and problems of being 
physically attractive, as well as about some social 
problems such as prejudice. The books do not tend to 
overplay violence; sometimes it even seems unreal. In 
Natalie Carson's The Empty Schoolhouse (Harper and 
Row, 1965) a young black girl has difficulty integrating 
into a white school. TTie townspeople react violently to 
the integration, take up arms, and the girl is shot in the 
foot. The townspeople all are immediately contrite, the 
heroine is redeemed, and integration is 3. fait accompli. 
The violence is totally subordinated to the "heroine" 
fantasy in a book that is neither worth condemning nor 
promoting for its simplistic approach to racial 

Violence is more realistic in the books of Kristin 
Hunter. In Soul Brothers and Sister Lou (Scribner, 
1968), one black youngster is killed when young 
musicians in a ghetto are harassed by police. Eventual 
success does not erase the pain of early experience. 
Hunter's Guests in the Promised Land {ScrihneT, 1973) is 
a series of short stories about black teenagers in housing 
projects, on welfare and employed in menial jobs. 
William Armstrong's Sounder (Harper and Row. 1972) 
is an example of a typical book on racial tensions 
presently produced tor teenagers. Sounder is a story of a 
poor black family before the Civil Rights movement. 
When the son in the family visits his father, imprisoned 
for a theft of meat, the boy is humiliated by the guard 
and dreams of a brutal revenge. Both boys and girls 
read with enjoyment the stories that deal with problems 
of minority groups, and there is much publishing in this 

Publishers also find a market for books aimed at 
female adolescents and dealing with boy-meets-girl 
problems, marriage, or pregnancy. A Wild Thing 
(Macmillan, 1970) by Jean Renvoize tells an unhappy 
and violent story about a girl who lives in the wilds, a 
semi-feral child. She has been attacked bv the villagers 


to whom she went for help. This is a pessimistic book, 
and of it the author said: 

A Wild Thing was written as an adult novel and published as 
such in England, but the American publisher considered that 
the book would do best if presented as a young adult book in 
the Slates. It was inspired by a news item of an actual boy 
whose bones were found on a Scottish hillside and whose 
identity was discovered primarily from his dental condition. 
He was about twelve and an orphan. From that I developed 
the story of a girl of nearly sixteen whose eventual fate was 
similar. My new novel is unlikely to be published as suitable 
for adolescents.' 

The book was cited as an American Library Association 
Notable Book of 1970, indicating that the publisher was 
quite right about the marketing of the book as "young 
adult" in the United States. 

An American example that is more frightening than 
many in dealing with the reality of abortion is Bonnie Jo 
Go Home (Bantam, 1973) by Jeanette Eyerly. Bonnie Jo, 
a 16-year-old, is in an unfamiliar city trying to rid 
herself of an unwanted pregnancy. The details of an 
abortion late in pregnancy are discussed, and the book 
appears partly to serve the age-old purpose of "awful 

Some of the books dealing with drugs, another 
concern of modern realistic fiction, also fall into the 
"awful warning" category. Go Ask Alice (Avon, 1972) is 
typical example and was made into a film. Alice is a girl 
of middle-class background who becomes hooked on 
drugs and who suffers degradation and exploitation 
because of her habit. Eventually unable to control her 
life any longer, she commits suicide. Stories about drugs 
interest both boys and girls, and there are numerous 
titles to the subject, from Frank Bonham's Cool Cat 
(Dell, 1971) to Maia Wojciechowska's Tuned Out 
(Harper and Row, 1968). In Cool Cat, two friends. 
Buddy and Little Pie, aspire to get out of their drug- 
ridden "Dogtown". Buddy wants to be a lifeguard and 
Little Pie a police cadet. The friends manage to start a 
hauling business with a truck. The truck is maliciously 
damaged by a rival gang, and Little Pie retaliates by 
destroying the gang leader's car. Life on the street, gang 
fights, or personal vendettas are a part of most of these 
books concerned with contemporary urban teenage life. 
The violence is part of the scenario and does not totally 
dominate the story. 

Books for boys tend to have much more aggression 
and violence than do books for girls. Not that girls are 
denied the violent stories; on the contrary, girls read the 
stories that are written for them and also those written 
for boys. Boys, on the other hand, will rarely read girls' 
books. Both boys and girls read titles written for the 
adult audience. 

Curiously, an early and popular junior novel about 
gang warfare was written by a teenaged girl, Sally E. 
Hinton. The Outsiders (Dell, 1967) is about three 
brothers who live together in poverty. The youngest boy 
tells of constant fighting between two gangs, the Socs 
and the Greasers - fighting that kills one boy and aids 

in the destruction of several others. Gang war, drugs, 
and teenage daily life in a slum neighbourhood are part 
of Hinton's That Was Then, This Is Now (Dell, 1971). 
Hinton defends her insistence on violence on the 
grounds that violence is a part of a teenager's life.^ It 
would appear that real-life violence is also part of the 
young child's life and literary times. In addition to the 
violence of folk and fairy tale, in which corporal or 
capital punishment is dispensed in a few paragraphs 
and presented as a kind of rough justice, there is also 
the violence that is not neutralized by fantasy. 

There are children separated from, or abused by, 
parents or molested by strangers. There is also evidence 
of violence resulting from emotional disorder, 
appearing as entertainment for children in their first 
picture books or stories. Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead 
(Pantheon, 1965) tells the story of Gilly, a self- 
contained intelligent orphan, who is taken into the 
household of the town eccentric, Mr. Kobalt, a wood- 
worker. Gilly is happy in the meticulously ordered Ufe 
of this household wherein "no carelessness or 
rearrangement will ever be permitted." He is soon 
taunted by children his own age, who think him as mad 
as Kobalt. When Gilly glares at them defiantly, the 
children, frightened at a strangeness that defies them, 
back away, and he retreats even more into the solitary 
clock-regulated confines of life with Kobalt and Mash, 
his dog. One day. Mash is bloodied and beaten and 
when Gilly has the courage to question Kobalt, he is 
told that "He [the dog] is getting old. I will soon need 
another dog and Mash must learn to die." At that, Gilly 
wonders if he too is learning to die. He learns that a 
wooden cage is being prepared for his prison, and he 
realizes that pain gives Kobalt pleasure. Gilly disturbs 
the organization of Kobalt's workroom, subconsciously 
testing the reaction of Kobalt, who flies into a 
murderous rage. A major part of this story concerns 
Kobalt's attempts to destroy Gilly and Gilly's eventual 
escape. At the crucial moment when Gilly is injured and 
has no resources left, the dog Mash attacks Kobalt and 
saves Gilly. As Gilly goes to a new life he leaves a last 
misspelled message on Kobalt's door. The message is 
"Dorp Dead!" 

The book features an 1 1 -year-old boy and is 
suggested for ages ten and up, although it is probably 
read by children from eight to 12. It has been both 
condemned and praised; whatever its literary merit, it is 
certainly an unusual book to present to young children. 
It does show Gilly as escaping, and it does have a happy 
ending; readers may be pleased with elements and 
unafi'ected by the objections of adults. The happy 
ending is contrived and so departs from the actual 
realism that is lauded - a realism that recognizes 
emotional disturbance and hints at \he folie a deux that 
underlies the plot. The themes of mental illness, aliena- 
tion, disaff~ectation, and rejection, along with the 
implied emotional or physical violence, are present in 
literature for quite young children. 


There is yet aiK^ther theme related to violence that 
creeps into literature for adolescent boys and is 
frequently found in books studied in English classes. 
Jean Kelty mentions some of these books in a short 
paper, "The Cult of the Kill in Adolescent Fiction", 
presented at an Annual Conference on English 
Education in the Elementary School in 1974.-^ The 
theme is that the killing of something, such as an 
animal, is a rite of passage, an initiation into manhood. 

Kelty rightly remarks that the literary stereotyping of 
girls as passive onlookers has recently been well 
documented. Boys have been shown to do more adven- 
turesome things, be involved more than girls in activi- 
ties, and also range further afield to follow their more 
interesting pursuits. There is, unremarked upon, a 
parallel stereotyping of boys, a conditioning to violence, 
that may be more injurious to society generally than the 
relegation of the female to a passive role. 

Many books dealing with the coming of age of young 
males show that manhood and maturity are attained by 
pitting oneself against the animal, or natural, world. 
Often this world is symbolized as evil, alien to man, an 
external force that must be fought. The defeat of the 
external evil establishes the maturation of the boy and 
his ability to conduct himself henceforth as a man 
among men. In contrast, few books portray the fact that 
maturation may be a battle with self, an issue of self- 
acceptance or self-understanding. 

One book that troubles Kelty is The Yearling 
(Scribner, 1966) by Majorie Kinnan Rawlings. The 
Yearling is sometimes read in Ontario classrooms 
between grades nine and 1 1. Originally published in the 
late 1930s, and winner of the 1939 Pulitzer Prize Award, 
it is a much more substantial novel than the junior 
novels of today, and thus lends itself to discussion in the 
classroom. Jody Baxter and his family live in the 
Florida scrubs, eking out their living by hunting and 
trapping when necessary. As the book nears its end, 
Jody must kill his pet deer who is destroying the crops 
by which the family lives. The act is Jody's admission 
into manhood, acknowledged by his father but, as for 
Jody, "He did not believe he should ever again love 
anything, man or woman or his own child, as he had 
loved the yearling. He would be lonely all his life. But a 
man took it for his share and went on." Kelty asserts 
that while such acts as killing pet animals may be inevi- 
table and that while Jody, forced by circumstances, did 
what was necessary, he did not grow into maturity 
thereby. A boy does not become a man by killing that 
which he loves and determining not to give love to any 
person again. Actions such as those portrayed in The 
Yearling tend to telescope the act of inflicting pain into 
the pain of grief. Jody might grow to maturity by 
experiencing pain and grief, but that is not to be 
confused with the experience of inflicting pain. The 
same theme is repeated in Fred Gipson's Old Yeller 
(Harper and Row. 1956). a perennially popular tale in 
which a boy must kill his dog because it seems the dog 

might develop rabies. The family is unwilling to wait 
and see if the dog does become rabid: they simply 
"can't take that chance". The boy's father tells the 
sorrowing boy to "try to forget it and go on being a 
man". Often the animal is not a pet but a wild animal, 
as in Verne Davis' The Devil Cat Screamed (Morrow, 
1966), in which a young cowboy comes face to face with 
a cougar that he has chosen for a personal enemy. Or 
"the enemy" may simply be animals in general, as in 
Hal Borland's novel When Legends Die (Lippincott, 
1963), written for older boys. Tom Black Bull, a young, 
disillusioned Ute Indian takes out his frustrations and 
anger against white society with harsh treatment of the 
horses that he rides in rodeos. This book carries the 
story further than completion of a violent act as growth 
to manhood, in that Tom decides not to kill a bear he 
has stalked. He realizes that his trouble is within 
himself. He rejects the self that was the senseless killer, 
the devil-rider of rodeo circuit, and he finally finds 
peace and maturity in resolving his identity problems by 
means other than violence. Boy against nature or 
animal is too familiar a theme to be multiplied here. 

Robert Newton Peck's A Day No Pigs Would Die 
(Knopf, 1972), an autobiographical story, follows 
directly in the tradition of The Yearling or Old Yeller. 
The language has matured in Peck's book, but plot - 
boyhood into manhood in rural America - remains the 
same. The book opens with Robert telling how he 
viciously and repeatedly kicked a cow in the udder 
while she was giving birth. For this help in the birthing, 
he receives a piglet. Another incident in the book 
describes a fight between a dog and weasel, in which 
both animals are trapped in a closed barrel until there is 
a victor and a vanquished. A short moral tag on the 
brutality of such a fight accompanies the many 
paragraphs devoted to the description. There is also a 
lengthy description of mating the pet pig to a boar (a 
topic that would formerly have been forbidden in 
children's literature). Pinky, the pig, is barren and the 
climax of the book occurs as Robert must help his 
father butcher Pinky. His father tells him that this 
action is "what being a man is all about, boy. It's just 
doing what's got to be done." The father touches the 
boy's face with his "cruel pig-sticking" fist and Robert 
cannot keep himself from kissing his father's bloody 
hand. "I kissed his hand again and again, with all its 
stink and fatty slime of dead pork. So he'd understand 
that I'd forgive him even if he killed me." The National 
Council of Teachers of English recommends this book 
as portraying a Vermont "Walton" family, in which the 
problems of adolescence are helped by an under- 
standing family and friends. 

Violence as the initiation into adulthood is a 
universal theme. The initiation is concomitant with the 
acquisition of skills. The boy has learned to use a gun. 
or a hunting knife, or a rodeo lasso, or a weapon im- 
plement of some sort, and now he demonstrates that 
skill. The practice of martial arts, including the skills of 


judo or karate, confer the status of manhood. The 
association of skills with initiation is more clearly seen 
in movies than in books, because the techniques of 
violence can be stressed and visually displayed in ways 
not possible with print alone. Thus the hero, or the 
super-man in film, is also the super-user of his weapons 
or his fists. His technique of karate or judo is incredible 
and/or his marksmanship superlative. Violence may be 
presented as a flaw, but it is one in which both villain 
and hero share. The hero has acquired more skills with 
his arsenal of weapons than has the villain, and so it is 
not brute strength alone that determines the outcome, 
although, if it comes down to an issue of strength, the 
heroes are not lacking. Initiation into manhood and 
demonstration of leadership are dependent upon the 
display of violent skills. This is a familiar motif in many 
westerns or crime dramas that are published for adults 
but read by adolescents as well. 

As a doctoral dissertation, Gloria Blatt recently did a 
content analysis of the violent episodes in children's 
hterature." She sampled 170 realistic novels, all of which 
were selected by the American Library Association as 
Notable Books for Children published between 1960 
and 1970. The purpose was to determine any change in 
the proportion of violent episodes in the stories on the 
list over the decade. Episodes were analyzed according 
to the total space devoted to violence, the details or 
intensity of descriptions, the roles assumed by the 
heroes and villains, the relationships of the participants, 
and the kinds of violent acts perpetrated as well as the 
value judgments placed on these acts. A violent action 
was defined as an overt expression of force intended to 
hurt or to kill. Books were scored on all these factors in 
a systematic way, and the findings for all books in a 
given year were averaged and a trend established. The 
discernible trend over the ten-year period was toward a 
greater expression of violence. On average, the number 
of pages devoted to violence increased from 12 per cent 
in 1960 to 15 per cent in 1970. Interestly enough, 
however, Blatt found that, while the actual depiction of 
violence increased, the expressed or implied approval of 
violence by the authors marginally decreased over the 

The books were divided into categories of modem 
realistic and historical fiction. Modern realistic fiction 
scored 1 1 per cent on the average of total pages devoted 
to violence, while the average for historical fiction was 
23 per cent - more than twice as much aggressive 
action. One reason for the disparity is that historical 
fiction frequently concerns war. When historical-fiction 
books with war settings were separated from those with 
non-war settings, the average score for the former was 
35 per cent, while the average .score for the latter was 17 
per cent. 

It appeared that, increasingly over the decade, the 
heroes in the story were instigating and committing the 
violence. Villains still committed more violence than 
heroes - 23 per cent as against 1 8 per cent - but the gap 

between "good guys" and "bad guys" was not wide. 
More than half of the aggressive deeds were done by 
minor figures. Unlike actual life situations, where 
violence most frequently occurs between persons who 
are related or acquainted, 67 per cent of the violence in 
books tends to occur between strangers. In historical 
fiction there is the clash between warring strangers; only 
in realistic modern fiction does some violence between 
intimates occur. The degree of intimacy is often at one 
remove or more from violent clashes with parents. In 
Dorp Dead, the boy fought with a newly appointed 
guardian; frequently the violence in books occurs 
between children and their guardians, whether relatives 
or housekeepers. 

The aggressive activity in the notable books of the 
1960s included a full range, with shooting and killing 
appearing most frequently. Action was counted as 
violent if it included belligerent sports such as boxing 
and wrestling. The treatment of details was realistic, 
with much material included that would appeal to the 
senses of the reader. Authors of children's books 
depend on word pictures and illustrations to create the 
illusion of reality, so much detail enhances the illusion. 
In the majority of books in the study, the writers 
included information about the eff'ects of the acts of 
aggression that were portrayed. Much aggressive liter- 
ature functions as a means of socialization to violence, 
to cruelty, to an insensitivity to life so that children, 
particularly boys, might be prepared for aggressive 
action in life, including soldiering.^ 

In Blatt's study, violence was central to the story in 
fewer than 10 per cent of the cases studied, and most of 
these stories deal with war. World War II is a popular 
topic in both fiction and non-fiction publishing for 
adults. The themes of war read by adults are also 
popular in juvenile versions. There are many stories of 
civilian life in an embattled country, such as Martha 
Stiles' Darkness Over the LandiDxdA, 1966) or Eric 
Haugaard's The Little Fishes (Houghton, 1967). Some 
stories, such as Treadgold's We Couldn't Leave Dinah 
(Cape, 1941), are essentially non-violent. This story is 
about German and British children, members of a pony 
club, who discover German invasion plans on their 
Channel island in the 1940s. The book was popular 
during the war years and was reprinted frequently until 
the mid-1960s. Carrie's W^aA-(Lippincott, 1973) by Nina 
Bawden is a domestic, non-violent story about a girl 
and her young brother who are evacuated to Wales for 
safety during the war. These stories are more child-like 
in their appeal. They tend to explore relationships 
between people rather than to capitalize on the action 
of combatants, as do many stories of war. Fiction about 
war is not extensively discussed in Blatt's study, 
because, a priori, violence is present in many of these 
books. Violence may well be the central core of war 

While war is a present theme in children's literature, 
crime and the hunt for criminals - familiar topics of 


television drama - are largely absent from books of 
good quality written for children. (Obvious exceptions 
are the series books like The Three Investigators, The 
Hardv Boys et cetera.) Lockhart Amerman's Guns in the 
Heather (HiXTCouTi, 1963) was the only book about 
criminals elected as a notable book by the American 
Library Association in the decade of Blatt's study. The 
verisimilitude of a cops-and-robbers shoot-out is not 
easily achieved in a book for youngsters. The violent 
incident, so telescoped and emphasized on the television 
screen, is not reflected in children's literature. 

Some books involving criminals and mysteries have 
been promoted into standards for children - John 
Buchan's The Thirty-nine Steps or Conan Doyle's 
Sherlock Holmes novels. In the series books, like the 
Hardy Boys, or stories about other dauntless lads of 
derring-do, the heroes pit themselves in a battle of wit 
and sometimes a physical skirmish against criminals. 
But violence is not usually central to the plot, and the 
ultimate goals of major characters are rarely achieved 
through force. In children's books, the characters are 
not always uniformly well developed in the literary or 
artistic sense, but there is time in a book to indicate 
character development and to provide solutions in 
terms of increased maturity, external circumstances, or 
a hovering deus ex machina. The solution does not have 
to be a violent ending. 

Blatt's study on violence in a selected sample of 
notable books concluded that, for the most part, 
treatment of violence in realistic fiction for children is a 
reflection of aggression in real life. While incidence of 
conflict in books may have increased somewhat in 
quantity, it has not changed appreciably in quality. 
Conflict is treated honestly without becoming the focal 
point of many stories. When there is fighting, readers 
may learn something about human behaviour and its 
results, because there are both realistic details and a 
certain amount of characterization. 

As television has a relationship to reading, it is 
pertinent to compare the violence found in books and 
on the home screen. Blatt determined that the sample of 
children's literature analyzed was much less violent in 
content than the average television film. Even books of 
historical fiction, although frequently concerned with 
war, were significantly less violent than television 
drama. Her statement was based on a calculation from 
the U.S. National Commission on the Causes and 
Prevention of Violence which estimated conservatively 
that an average of 6.7 acts of violence occur every hour 
on television. Blatt noted that if each of these episodes 
takes three minutes, then 20 minutes of every hour is 
concerned with some form of aggression. That is, 33 per 
cent of the time is devoted to violence, as opposed to an 
approximately 1 1 per cent average of violent incident 
by content in the notable children's books of 1960-1970. 
Television writers seek the sensational to keep viewers 
interested, and so the level of excitement is deliberately 
kept high by the use of such devices as violence. 

Violence is integral to many television plots, but is most 
frequently peripheral to plots in children's literature. 
The peripheral aspect of violence in books is also 
indicated by the characters involved in the violent 
activity; in literature, the violence is often committed 
among minor characters. Television, however, works 
within time constraints, which result in a tendency to 
reduce the number of characters, to simplify the charac- 
terization, and, perforce, to pit hero against villain. 

Television has either been excused or accused of 
sanitizing violence. TTie consequences of a violent 
action such as a shoot-out do not appear to the viewer 
to be too painful. The victim of a gunshot falls to the 
ground and is silent. The camera may move away to 
show not the victim, but the reactions of others in the 
scene. The details of the suff'ering victim are hidden; 
there are no continuing screams of pain, nor moaning, 
nor bleeding. However, increasingly, television watchers 
can expect to see more bloody and realistic scenes of 
sufi'ering as the impact explosives used to simulate 
wounds on actors in films move onto the home screen. 

Books, on the other hand, tend not to turn from the 
moment of violence, but to extend it in order to further 
the illusion of reality on the part of the reader. In The 
Yearling, written in the late 1930s, the following 
description of an animal's death is given. Flag, the 
yearling, has just been ineptly shot by Jody's mother 
and lies floundering beside a fence: 

Jody ran to Flag. The yearling heaved to his three good legs 
and stumbled away, as though the boy himself were his enemy. 
He was bleeding from a torn left forequarter .... 

Flag ran on three legs in pain and terror. Twice he fell and 
Jody caught up to him. He shrieked, "Hit's me! Hit's me! 

Flag thrashed to his feet and was off again. Blood flowed in a 
steady stream. The yearling made the edge of the sink-hole. He 
wavered an instant and toppled. He rolled down the side. Jody 
ran after him. Flag lay beside the pool. He opened great liquid 
eyes and turned them on the boy with a glazed look of wonder. 
Jody pressed the muzzle of the gun barrel at the back of the 
smooth neck and pulled the trigger. Flag quivered a moment 
and then lay still. 

(pp. 409-411) 

In Sounder, published 30 years later, almost the same 
scene, the shooting of a pet is described. The dog. 
Sounder, has been callously and casually shot by a 
sherifl^s deputy: 

Sounder tried to rise but fell again. There was another yelp, 
this one constrained and plaintive . . . Sounder was running, 
falling, floundering, rising. The hind part of his body stayed up 
and moved from side to side, trying to lift the front part from 
the earth. He twisted, fell, and heaved his great shoulders. His 
hind paws dug into the earth. He pushed himself up. He 
staggered forward, sideways, then fell again. One leg did not 
touch the ground. A trail of blood, smeared and blotted, 
followed him. There was a large spot of mingled blood, hair 
and naked flesh on one shoulder. His head swung from side to 
side. He fell again and pushed his body along wnth his hind 


legs. One side of his head was a mass of blood. The blast had 
torn off the whole side of his head and shoulder. 

(pp. 27-28) 

In the passage from The Yearling, there is not much 
blood or physical detail in the description of the deer's 
death; the writing concentrates on the relationship of 
the boy with his deer, and emotional tension is derived 
from the reader's identification with Jody. In the 
passage from Sounder, the violence is described in some 
detail and almost from the point of view of bystander. 
The reader has time to assimilate feeling about the 
scene and to respond with the emotions that the writer 
wished to evoke - shock, grief, indignation, and 
frustration in the face of personal helplessness. 

Children reading these junior novels may draw 
parallels between aggression in books and violence in 
real life. They also may be helped thereby to tolerate, or 
to understand, conditions in their lives. Therefore, the 
advent of more realism in children's books is heralded. 
There is an opmion that junior novels about the ills of 
society and the problems of youth can help to bridge a 
much-discussed generation gap. Books can be a means 
of helping young people overcome feelings of 

Thus, these novels about subjects of real concern to 
adolescents are promoted as being both interesting to 
the age group and therapeutic in nature. The therapy is 
generally thought to depend upon catharsis, in literary 
terms, the purification of emotions through a purging 
drama. Deriving from Aristotle's Poetics, literary 
catharsis has been modified to mean the exercise of 
those feelings that enable a person to respond morally 
to occasions of dramatic intensity. Destructive emotions 
of low or brutal origin are presumed purged by the 
stimulus of higher emotions such as pity or fear, or by 
constructive acts of compassion, charity, or love. By 
extension, in the bibliotherapeutic view of the use of 
books, these constructive emotions involve a growth in 
personal development, an understanding of others or 
self, or an act of self-governance or self-help. 

The theory of catharsis has given protection to much 
portrayal of violence in traditional arts. The assurance 
of social or religious usefulness has excused the 
presence of violence in portrayals of a saint's 
martyrdom in religious paintings above altars, or of 
western gunslingers' shoot-outs in books and films. 
However, while the secular art may be as icono- 
graphical as the religious art in its presentation, it is not 
as protected by cultural tradition. This lack of 
protection and the emergence of the mass media have 
focused attention on the presence of violence and the 
nature of catharis. The theory of catharsis has come 
under serious attack, and has been discredited as a 
beneficial effect of viewing violence on film. Catharsis in 
literature, or rather the bibliotherapeutic view of the 
realistic novel, is still widely accepted in publishing for 
adolescents. The belief in the utility of a contemporary 
plot about a "real-life" situation accounts for the 

sometimes uncritical acceptance of junior novels. 
Literary or artistic qualities of style or presentation are 
subordinated to the plot.^ Violence as a reflection of life 
and as catharsis is admitted widely into literature for 
children and adolescents. 


Chapter Eight 

Summary and Conclusion 

In conclusion, it may be fairly stated that violence has 
an appeal for children, and there is much in their 
environment that nurtures their interest. Children's 
literature contributes to that interest, although its 
contribution is variable as to quantity and quality of 
violence portrayed. A surprising amount of violent 
activity is present in literature for the nursery and for 
the young child who emerges from his crib into the 
world of fairy and folk tale. This literature for young 
children does have its violence securely anchored within 
a context of the imaginary and magical world of 

The violence is in exaggerated speech or retributive 
justice; it is rarely callous or disaffected. It is grounded 
in fantasy, and its physical description cannot be 
confused with normal events in everyday life. Latent 
violence and hostile innuendoes may, as some 
folklorists and psychologists assert, appeal to the 
subconscious, but the appeal is not explicit and cannot 
be recognized by children. The interpretation of 
allegory and symbolism is far beyond the sophistication 
of young readers, who accept the stories at their surface 
value of "make-believe". It would be difficult to 
ascertain the harm that the violence in these fantasies 
may do. It has been argued that a positive good 
frequently results from a knowledge of these tales. The 
violence is a small part of the overall contribution that 
nursery literature makes to the aesthetic, moral, and 
intellectual development of the child. 

Violence in the literature of childhood becomes more 
questionable in the formative years of early schooling, 
when the children turn to comic books, realistic novels, 
and the popular culture as their literary pursuits. 
Children demonstrate an appetite for violence in the 
stories and jokes they tell each other, and in their 
language and reading preferences. They also demon- 
strate an appetite for the poor and mediocre literature 
that frequently employs violence as a device. The 
appetite for poor-quality literature and for violence is 
encouraged by television. It is the most accessible 
cultural product to children, and possibly the medium 
to which most attention has been directed in the presen- 
tations to The Royal Commission on Violence in the 

Communications Industry. The appetite for violence is 
also encouraged by the print media that promote 
popular culture through advertisement of entertain- 
ments or through sensationalism in news reporting. 

Many people today are concerned that the media of 
popular culture are saturating the social climate with 
violence and its concomitant areas of obscenity and 
pornography. Without suggesting that censorship is the 
answer, it does seem that some self-restraint is 
indicated. One theoretical argument for censorship is 
that democracy, more than any other form of govern- 
ment, depends upon the restraint of the persons 
involved in self-governance. Whatever contributes to 
the loss of self-restraint leads to a breakdown in 
obedience to the rules whereby a people collectively 
govern themselves, and paves the way for either an 
anarchical or a more totalitarian regime. As the popular 
culture informs the reactions of many persons, laws 
governing public amusements may be of utilitarian 
value to society. Aside from this utilitarian value, there 
is an ethical value involved in dealing with the issue of 
the presentation of violence. It can surely be agreed that 
the communications industry should exhibit, to some 
degree, a responsibility towards society's educative 
goals for its children. 

The goals change. A clear indication of society's 
interest in the education of children can be seen by 
studying the literature of children from generations 
past. At present, however, the value goals that society 
would wish to inculcate in children would be self- 
restraint, respect for individuals, and a sense of social 
responsibility. AH of these goals are negated by 
gratuitous violence. 

A certain amount of violence is necessary, either 
because it mirrors an actual happening and is therefore 
a realistic and truthful presentation, or because it 
reflects a psychological truth and is therefore also 
realistic. Violence is associated with an aggressive drive, 
and with a need for assertion. In particular, boys show 
an interest in reading violent material. They feel a need 
for challenge and adventure, which is interpreted as 
proving their manliness. In former times, there may 
have been manual labour at an earlv aae, or the vicissi- 


tudes of frontier life, or enlistment in the army, to 
satisfy a need that is presently fulfilled vicariously 
through sports, books, and television. Television partic- 
ularly and books in a less pronounced fashion 
frequently present adventure or challenge as a drama 
predicated on aggressive violent activity between 
individuals. Aggression is a normal drive, necessary for 
a realistic mastery of life; aggression is something every 
child is endowed with in varying degrees; the problem is 
one not of aggression itself but of restraint and 

Literature should help in teaching restraint and direc- 
tion. Whatever aids in this undertaking should be 
promoted, and whatever hinders should be - for 
children - monitored and discouraged. Up to the 
eighteenth century, literature for children was as violent 
as literature for adults. No distinction was made 
between what was suitable for children and what was 
suitable for adults. By the beginning of the nineteenth 
century, a separate literature for children had developed 
and it grew throughout the century. This literature did 
not reflect reality for a majority of the population; the 
children who read these books were, to a large extent, 
sheltered in the emerging middle-class homes. Much of 
the literature was noticeably non-violent, presuming 
children to be innocent of violence. Children in the 
lower classes of England and America still had ready 
access to a violent literature and a violent way of life. 
Before the end of the century, the penny dreadfuls and 
comic papers were flourishing, and their blossom has 
not yet diminished. 

Children are no longer presumed to be innocent, and 
they can now read a wide range of literature on a 
multitude of topics. Children's literature, with the 
exception of comics, is not a transgressor in promoting 
violence as an appropriate and attractive mode of 
action. Even the realistic novel, dealing with contem- 
porary issues in adolescent life including the portrayal 
of violence, tends to depict the violence in diminished 
quality and quantity, compared with the popular 
medium of television. 

The acceptability of any element, including violence, 
in literature for children and adolescents is dictated by 
external forces. This literature is very responsive to the 
adult view of childhood and adolescence. Currently, 
there is a permissiveness in the approach to writing for 
these groups; as that attitude changes - if it does - so 
will the literature. It should also be noted that the 
intensive reading of juvenile literature, particularly liter- 
ature of some difficulty, is essentially a minority pursuit 
among children and adolescents. It would therefore 
seem more profitable to address the extent of the 
permissiveness that allows the expression of violence in 
the more popular media of the communications 
industry. For its expression here creates or encourages a 
fashion in books. 

As to the violence in the wide range of juvenile litera- 
ture, one can only recommend that children and adoles- 

cents be encouraged to read more widely than within 
the narrow range of sub-literature - comics, televison 
spinoff's, mediocre pulps - that so frequently uses 
violence as a ploy. How to encourage wider selection is 
a problem for education. The presentation of literature 
requires informed guidance on the part of parents, 
educators, and all those concerned with the devel- 
opment of children. Possibly the communications 
industry which exacerbates the problem can also help to 
alleviate it by educating adults and children, and by 
presenting alternatives that are less dependent on 
violence for a central interest. 

It may be the function of government and citizenry to 
aid in investigating the avenues that allow for such 
development. It is not novel to remark that children are 
our greatest natural resource. Logan Pearsall Smith 
once observed that uncultivated minds, unlike unculti- 
vated fields, are not full of wild flowers. Villainous 
weeds grow in them and they are the haunt of toads. 



Chapter Two 

1. Great Britain, Secretary of State for Education and Science, 
Committee of Inquiry, Report, A Language for Life (Lx)ndon: 
HMSO, 1975), p.515. 

2. Ibid., "Standards of Reading," passim. 

3. F. Whitehead, A.C. Capey, and W. Maddren, Children's 
Reading Interests: An Interim Report, Schools Council 
Research Project, Working paper 52 (London: 
Evans/Methuen, 1975). Published in Canada by Scholastic- 
Tab, Richmond Hill, Ontario. 

4. A.J. Jenkinson, What Do Boys and Girls Read: An Investigation 
into Reading Habits with some Suggestions about the Teaching 
of Literature in Secondary and Senior Schools (London: 
Methuen, 1940). 

5. Hilde Himmelweit, Television and the Child (London: Oxford 
University Press, 1958). 

6. L.F. Ashley, Children's Reading and the I970's (Toronto: 
McClelland and Stewart, 1972). 

7. Lewis Terman and Margaret Lima, Children's Reading (New 
York: D. Appleton-Century, 1931). 

8. Ashley, "In Summary", op. cit., p. 97. 

9. A.M. Fasick and C. England, "Children's Services Study", 
Regina Public Library, Final Report, January, 1977, prepared 
at the Centre for Research in Librarianship, University of 

10. Toronto Public Libraries, "Library Survey," 1976 

A questionnaire circulated to students in grades seven to 13 
revealed that teenagers found mysteries most interesting, 
followed by adventure, humour, magazines, and science 
fiction. Girls liked romances, boys liked sports stories. About 
60 per cent of the respondents identified a favourite author, 
many of the names American. Judy Blume was identified as a 
favourite author, while Farley Mowat was identified as both 
Canadian and a favourite author. Other Canadian authors 
fared less well in being identified as Canadian. 

1 1 . Canada, Senate, Special Committee on Mass Media, Report, 
Vol. Ill, Good, Bad or Simply Inevitable? (Omiwa, 1970), Table 
43, p.89. 

12. Ontario, Ministry of Transportation and Communications, 
Communications in Ontario: Findings of A Surx'ey of Public 
Attitudes, 1973 (Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Transportation 
and Communications, 1974). 

13. Ibid., "Introductory Remarks." 

14. Fasick and England, op. cit. 

15. P.H. Mann, A New Survey: The Facts About Romantic Fiction 
(London: Mills and Boon, 1947). 

16. Pamela Hansford Johnson, On Iniquity (London: Macmillan, 
1967), pp. 28-34. 

The author discusses the books that Ian Brady and Myra 
Hindley, convicted murderers, owned: "their interests were 
sado-masochistic, titillatory, and sado-Fascist." They had not 
received the education likely to fit them for objective study, 
and among the 50 or so books were some that are "socially 
and scientifically responsible in intent but not designed for 
study outside a specialist world." 

17. Longford Committee Investigating Pornography, 
Pornography: The Longford Report (London: C!oronet Books, 

The report discusses violence as it relates to other issues. 

18. United States, Commission of Obscenity and Pornography, 
Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography 
(Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Oflfice, 1970). 

The report includes separately pubhshed technical reports. 

Chapter Three 

1. CBC Learning Systems, Images of Childhood (AudioTecord) 
(Toronto: CBC, 1971), from the program Ideas, December 

2. A.M. Fasick and C. England, "Children's Services Study" 
Regina Public Library, Final Report, January, 1977. Prepared 
at the Centre for Research in Librarianship, University of 

3. A. Pietropinto, "A Psychiatrist's Case for Jabberwocky and 
Other Violent Nonsense," Learning liMarch 1974): 80-83. 

4. lona and Peter Opie, compilers. The Lore and Language of 
School Children (London: Oxford University Press, 1959), pp. 

5. Susan Smith, "Urban Tales," in Folklore of Canada. Edith 
Fowke, compiler (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1976), 
pp. 262-68. 

6. Joseph Jacobs, English Fairy Tales (London: The Bodley 
Head, 1968), number 24. 

7. Fowke, Folklore of Canada (Toronto: McClelland and 
Stewart, 1976), pp. 267-68 

8. Ibid. 

9. Jacobs, op. cit., "Notes and References" pp. 310-1 1. 

Chapter Four 

1. Reform of nursery rhymes has been called for in the past 
because of their nonsense, vulgarities, and the cruelties they 
encourage children to practise. George Withers (1588-1667) is 
possibly the first recorded advocate of nursery-rhyme reform. 
The influential Sarah Trimmer, early nineteenth century 
author of children's books and founder of a magazine. The 
Guardian of Education, roundly attacked the uselessness and 
confused notions of nursery rhymes. Many rhymes were 
bowdlerized, and many have changed over time in any case. 
In this century, the issue appears to have arisen in the late 
1940s when Geofl"rey Hall and Geoff'rey Handley-Taylor 
wrote against use of the verses. 

2. Modern illustrated versions always picture Humpty Dumpty 
as an egg, so the implied riddle of the verse is foretold. Hence 
it is easy to overlook the riddling aspect of the verse. 
Psychologists investigating this rhyme suggest that the 
fragility of the egg is juxtaposed, by children, with their own 
fragility. Both egg and child are threatened by permanent 
damage through the fall. 

3. In a forthcoming (1977) study for Statistics Canada. Norman 
Bell, sociologist at the University of Toronto, found that 45 
per cent of murders in Canada were within the family unit. In 
Canada, murder is a minor statistic, showing a slight increase 
from the period 1961 to 1974. Males are more murderous than 
females; Bell speculates that this so because of role 
stereotyping that begins to teach aggression in childhood. 


Males may show a proclivity for murder as early as age six. 
The exception to this pattern occurs in parents, where 
children are more often victims of a mother's action. Reported 
in "Research News," University of Toronto Bulletin, Nov. 10, 

4. C.W. Valentine, "Innate and Acquired," in The Normal Child, 
(Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1956). 

5. A simpler explanation for the action in the rhyme is that the 
verses are meant as swinging games played with babies, and 
not as lullabies. Another rhyme has "baby swung up high, in 
an apple tree, when the apples fall, down comes baby, apples 
and all". It is common for babies to be swung to various 

6. G. Handley-Taylor, "Nursery Rhyme Reform" (Manchester: 
True Aim Press, n.d.), pamphlet. 

7. Philippe de Aries, in his Centuries of Childhood: A Social 
History of Family Life (New York: Vintage, 1972), documents 
the callousness induced in parents by the high infant- 
mortality rate of the middle ages. 

8. It has been stated by K.E. Thomas, in The Real Personages of 
Mother Goose, (Boston: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 1930), that 
the old man was Cardinal David Beaton (1949-1546), 
Chancellor under Mary, Queen of Scots, and enemy of 
English Protestants. He opposed the reform doctrines of the 
Covenanters, and in 1545, condemned George Wishart, 
Protestant martyr, to be burned. Beaton was stabbed by 
Wishart's friends and his body was impaled on the stakes of 
his castle at St Andrew's, Scotland. In this case, if the 
connections with the nursery rhyme be accepted, the rhyme 
actually disguises the violence surrounding the circumstances 
of Beaton's murder. 

Thomas' book gives historical placement to .several of the 
violent rhymes, as well as to the rhymes that are interpreted as 
ndicule. This last category is the one with the most entries. 

9. Both the 1715 edition and a popular illustrated edition of the 
1840s are available in a facsimile reprint, together with notes 
and appendices, in the Juvenile Library Series, Divine Songs 
(London: Oxford University Press, 1970). 

The publication of Divine Songs was coincident with two other 
works, Defoe's Robinson Crusoe {\7\9) and Swift's Gulliver's 
Travels (\726), both of which rapidly became children's 

10. The place of Isaac Watts is discussed in F.J. Harvey Darton's 
work. Children's Books in England, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 1966), passim. 

1 1. A variant beginning to "Rock-a-bye Baby" is "Hush-a-bye 
Baby" which may be a corruption of the French, "He bas, la 
le loup," - "Be quiet, there's the wolf." This was a threat used 
to quiet French children, because wolves were reputed to eat 
naughty children. 

12. D. Bakan, Slaughter of the Innocents: A Study of the Battered 
Child Phenomenon (Toronto: CBC Learning Systems, 197 1). 

TTiis study includes a brief chapter, "What is revealed unto 
babes", that discusses the hidden portents of some nursery 

13. Ibid. 

14. Ibid.. p.60. 

15. There is good factual support for the normality of whippings 
and beatings in schools of the nineteenth century, and 
presumably centuries earlier. Nineteenth-century fiction 

fastened upon the subject, with Dickens in David Copperfield 
and other writings perhaps taking the lead. 

Chapter Five 

1. As quoted in F.J. Harvey Darton, Children's Books in 
England, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 
1966), p.96. 

2. The frontispiece showed an old woman telling tales to three 
people beneath a placard stating "Contes de ma mere I'oye". 
Published in England in 1729, this work and other books like 
it became known as "Mother Goose's Tales." 

3. Eight tales were in Perrault's 1697 volume; seven are 
universally recognized: 

La belle au bois dormant - (Sleeping Beauty) 

Le petit chaperon rouge - (Red Riding Hood) 

La barbe bleue - (Blue Beard) 

Le maistre chat - (Puss in Boots) 

Les fees - (The Fairies, or Diamonds and Toads) 

Cendrillon - (Cinderella) 

Piquet a la houppe (variant titles, a deformed prince loves a 
beautiful but witless princess) 

4. E. Cook, The Ordinary and the Fabulous (Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 1969), p. 47. 

5. Lee Burns, "Red Riding Hood," in Children's Literature: The 
Great Excluded 1(1972): 30-36. 

6. Department of Education, The Ontario Readers: Second Book 
(Toronto: T. Eaton Co., 1935), p. 29. Authorized text, 1923 - 

7. G. McCracken, "Violence and Deception in Children's 
Literature," in Elementary English 49(March, 1972): 422-24. 

8. Jella Lepman, /^ Bridge of Children's Books (Chicago: 
American Library Association, 1969), p. 59. A translation 
from the German, Die Kinderbuchbrucke. 

9. F.J.H. Darton, op. cit., p. 79. 

10. E. Cook, op. cit., p. 39. 

1 1. Kathleen Hines, ed.. The Babes in the Wood (London: The 
Bodley Head, 1972), Afterword. 

12. Most versions contain a later interpolation telling how the 
murder was avenged and the wicked uncle ruined. The moral 
is pointed: those in charge of infants should yield them their 
right - in this case, a patrimony. The final exhortation is not 
to be kind but to be just in execution of financial affairs. 

13. A brief history of "Jack the Giant-killer", quoting the interest 
of the Fieldings, Johnson and Cowper appears in Classic Fairy 
Tales, Peter and lona Opie, eds. (London: Oxford University 
Pres.s, 1974), pp. 49-50. 

14. As most students of Shakespeare know, the nursery lines "Fee 
Fi Fau Fum" appear in King Lear (Act III, Scene iv). 

15. The incidence of wicked stepmothers as against wicked 
stepfathers has been remarked. P.sychological reasoning 
suggests that stepmother is a displacement for mother, and 
that an Electra complex underlies much of the hostility direct 
toward stepmothers. The fact that females, more often than 
males, tell the stories to children ensures that the feminine 
interest eventually dominates the fairy tale. 

16. A full text of the tale may be found in Joseph Jacobs, English 
Fairy Tales (London: The Bodley Head. 1968), pp. 92-94. 


17. Bruno Bcttelheim, The Uses of Enchant ineni: The Meaning and 
Importance of Fairy Tales (New York: Random House, 1976). 

18. Max Liilhi, Once Upon a Time: On the Nature of Fairy Tales 
(New York: F. Unger. 1970). 

19. Robert I. Watson. Psychology of the Child, 2nd ed. (New 
York: Wiley. 1967). p. 295 ff! 

20. Edward Clodd, Tom Tit Tot: An Essay on Savage Philosophy 
in the Folk Tale (London: Duckworth Co., 1898; reissued by 
Singing Tree Press. 1968). 

Rosemary's Bahy (New York: Random House. 1967) a best- 
selling novel by Ira Levin, made into a motion picture and 
reprinted for paper sales in 1976, shared elements from the 
fairy tale of Tom Tit Tot. Rosemary saves her baby by 
naming the sorcerer, thus freeing both herself and baby. 

Chapter Six 

1 . K. O'Hara, "The Reading Interests of Primary Children as 
Reflected in Their Library Choices." Unpublished Master's 
thesis (South Bend. Ind.: Indiana University School of 
Education. 1973). 

This thesis notes that primary-school children chose quality 
literature only 33 per cent of the time. The remaining choices 
are distributed between favourite authors and characters and 
Disney books. 

2. George Bluestone, "Life, Death and 'Nature' in Children's 
TV." in TV as Art: Some Essays in Criticism, P.O. Hazard, ed. 
(Champaign. 111.: National Council of Teachers of English, 
1966), pp. 157-76. 

3. An article adversely criticizing Disney's contribution to 
children's literature is F.C. Sayers. "Walt Disney Accused," in 
Children and Literature: Views and Reviews V. Haviland, ed. 
(Glenview, 111.: Scott Foresman. 1973), pp. 1 16-25. 

4. Garth S. Jowett, et al. "The Control of Mass Entertainment 
Media in Canada, the United States and Great Britain: 
Historical Surveys," in Ontario, The Royal Commission on 
Violence in the Communications Industry, Report, Vol. 4. 
Violence in Print and Music. 

5. "German Picture-Books of the 19th Century," in Graphis (No. 
177), International Survey of Children's Book Illustration 
(Zurich: Graphis Press, 1975), p. 4. 

6. Catherine Storr. "Fear and Evil in Children's Books." 
Children's Literature in Education, 1( March. 1970): 22-40. 

7. Nicholas Tucker. "Edward Ardizzone," Children's Literature 
in Education, 3(November. 1970): 21-29. 

8. Alice Dalgiesh. Book Review of Where the Wild Things Are by 
M. Sendak. in Saturday Review. 46(December 14. 1963): 49. 

9. H.B. Quimby. Book Review of Where the Wild Things Are by 
M. Sendak. in Library Journal, 88(December 15. 1963): 4847. 

10. V. Haviland. "Questions to an Artist Who Is also an Author." 
Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, 28(October 197 1 ): 
262-80. ' 

1 1 . W. demons. Book Review of The Juniper Tree, in Newsweek 
(December 3, 1973). p. 104. 

12. E. Blishen. Book Review of The Juniper Tree, in Books and 
Bookmen {December 1974): 74-5. 

13. Selma G. Lanes. "Rackham and Sendak, Childhood Through 
Opposite Ends of the Telescope," Down the Rabbit Hole (New 
York: Atheneum, 1971). pp. 67-78. 

14. Nicholas Tucker, "Books That Frighten," in Children and 
Literature: Views and Re\'iews, edited by V. Haviland 
(Glenview, 111.: Scott f-oresman, 1973), p. 107. 

15 A.K. Ulrich, "The Future Evolution of the Art of the Picture- 
Book," in Graphis (No. 177), International Survey of Children's 
Book Illustration (Zurich: Graphis Press, 1975), pp. IfXM 10. 

Ulrich discusses the trend of artists to emancipate the picture 
book from the hands of infants, and the effects that social 
criticism of this tendency, as well as the economics of 
publishing, may have on this trend over the next decade. 

16. Blishen, Garfield, and Keeping discuss their work on the first 
book. God Beneath the Sea, in "Greek Myths and the 
Twentieth Century Reader." in Children's Literature in 
Education 3(November 1970): 48-65. 

17. Ted Hughes, Book Review of God Beneath the Sea, in 
Children's Literature in Education 3(November 1970): 66-67. 

18. Alan Garner, Book Review: "The Death of Myth "(God 
Beneath the Sea), in Children's Literature in Education 
3(November 1970): 69-71. 

19. Hughes, op. cit., p. 67. 

20. Garner, op. cit., p. 70. 

21. Blishen, Garfield, and Keeping, op. cit., p. 53. 

22. Charles Keeping. "Illustration in Children's Books." in 
Children's Literature in Education. 1( March 8 1970): 41-54. 

23. Ibid., p. 49. 

24. Karen Harris. "Themes of Violence in Picture Books." 24th 
Convention of the New York State English Council, 
Binghampton, New York, May 1974. eric Document 
Reproduction Service, ed 090584. 

25. E.L.H.. Book Review of The Beast of Monsieur Racine by 
Ungerer. in The Horn Book 47(October 1971): 472. 

26. Much of Ungerer's advertising art is brought together in The 
Poster Art ofTomi Ungerer. Jack Rennert. ed. (New York: 
Darien House. 1971). 

27. S.G. Lanes, op. cit., p. 193. 

28. E.S. Turner. Boys Will Be Boys, 3rd ed. (London: M. Joseph, 

Turner discusses the schoolboy heroes Sexton Blake. 
Deadwood Dick, Jack Sheppard. Dick Barton and so on, in 
Boys' Own Paper and in the pulp publishing from the 
nineteenth century through into the mid-1960s. 

Chapter Seven 

1. "Jean Renvoize," Contemporary Authors. 41-44, 1976. p. 505. 

2. Sally E. Hinton. "Teenagers Are for Real." The Ne^- York 
Times Book Review (August 27, 1967). p. 29. 

3. Jean Kelty. "The Cult of the Kill in Adolescent Fiction." 12th 
Annual Conference on English Education in the Elementary 
School. Cleveland. Ohio. March 1974. eric Document 
Reproduction Service, ED 090563. 

4. G.T. Blatt. "Violence in Children's Literature: A Content 
Analysis of a Select Sampling of Children's Literature and a 
Study of Children's Responses to Literary Episodes Depicting 
Violence." Unpublished PhD. dissertation. Michigan State 
Universitv. 1972. eric Document Reproduction Service. ED 

5. Science fiction, a genre not considered in this survey, is 
frequently concerned with the conditioning of people to 


callous responses. The plot may be centred on invasion, or 
interplanetary war or some such. The quality of violence and 
its uses follows a similar pattern in the fantasies of tomorrow 
as in the realistic novels of today. 

6. The reading of an historical account of the German Third 
Reich is popular among adolescent boys. Biographies of 
Hitler, whether ill or well received by the critics, whether slim 
and fictionalized or scholarly and thick, are popular with 
adults and adolescents. As this paper is presented to The 
Royal Commission on Violence in the Communications 
Industry, a new book, Adolf Hitler (Doubleday, 1976) by John 
Toland, is a current best-seller. 

7. James C. Giblin, "Violence: Factors Considered by a 
Children's Book Editor," Elementary English, 49(January, 
1972): 64-67. 

Giblin, editor-in-chief of juvenile books at The Seabury Press 
discusses the problem of editing violent incidents in children's 
books. He asserts that problems arise not because of content 
but because of the author's treatment. 

Illustration by Arthur Rackham from "Hop-o'-my-thumb", 
The Arthur Rackham Fairy Book 

"Cronus" by Charles Keeping from The God Beneath the Sea 
by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen 

"Prometheus" by Charles Keeping from The God Beneath the 
Sea by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen 

Illustration by Louise Fitzhugh from Bang Bang You're Dead 
by Louise Fitzhugh and Sandra Scoppettone 

The Hat by Tomi Ungerer 

No Kiss for Mother by Tomi Ungerer 

The Bear and the Fly by Paula Winter 


Quotations from Folklore of Canada by Edith Fowke. 
Copyright 1976 by Edith Fowke. Reprinted by permission of 
McClelland and Stewart Ltd., Toronto. 

Illustration by Edward Ardizzone from The Old Ballad of the 
Babes in the Wood. Copyright 1972 by Edward Ardizzone. By 
permission of the Bodley Head, London. 

Illustration by Arthur Rackham from The Arthur Rackham 
Fairv Book. Copyright 1933. By permission of George G. 
Harrap and Co. Ltd., London. 

Illustrations copyright by Charles Keeping, 1970, from Leon 
Garfield and Edward Blishen, The God Beneath the Sea 
(Longman, 1970), pp. 11 and 86. Reprinted by permission of 
Penguin Books Ltd., Harmonds- rth, England. 

Illustration by Louise Fitzhug . from Bang Bang You 're Dead 
Copyright 1969 by Louise Fitzhugh and Sandra Scoppettone. 
By permission of Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc., 
New York. 

Illustration by Tomi Ungerer from The Hat. Copyright 1970 
by Tomi Ungerer. By permission of Parents' Magazine Press, 
New York. 

Illustration by Tomi Ungerer from No Kiss for Mother. 
Copyright 1973 by Tomi Ungerer. By permi-ssion of Harper 
and Row. Publishers. Inc.. New York. 

Illustration taken from The Bear and the Fly by Paula Winter. 
Copyright 1976 by Paula Winter. Used by permission of 
Crown Publishers, Inc., New York. 

(Acknowledgements are in order of appearance of items in 

The English Struwwelpeter, or Pretty Stories and Funny 
Pictures for Little Children, by Heinrich Hoffmann, c. 1860 

Max und Moritz, by Wilhelm Busch, c. 1865 

Jack the Giant-killer, chapbook, c. 1830 

Illustration by Edward Ardizzone from The Old Ballad of the 
Babes in the Wood 

Illustration by Gustave Dore from "Little Poucet", Les Contes 
de Perrault, c. 1862 




Earle Beattie 

Atkinson College 
York University 
Downsview, Ontario 


Preface: The Method Page 163 

Chapter 1 The Corporate Economy 164 

2 The Advertising Context of the Mainline Commercial Magazine .... 166 

3 What are Magazines? 170 

4 Kinds of Magazines and their Audiences: The Praise of Folly 172 

5 Violence May Be Good Or Bad: Biophilia and Necrophilia 175 

6 Three Ways in which Violence is Present in Magazines 178 

7 Summary of Criteria for Identifying and Classifying 

Magazine Violence 179 

8 Detailed Discussion of Criteria 181 

9 Reader's Digest 184 

10 Time 192 

11 Maclean's 197 

12 Good Begets Good 199 

13 Newspaper Magazine Supplements: Weekend Magazine, 

The Canadian 20 1 

14 Some Intellectual Magazines: Saturday Night, The Last Post, 

j Atlantic, Harper's, Saturday Review \ 204 

15 Chatelaine -June 1976 206 

16 For Working Women, Magazine Anodynes 207 

17 Men's Magazines: Esquire, Playboy 208 

18 y4rgo5>': Where Sex is Low-Key, Violence is Here 210 

\9 The Vhra-Violeni^DetecUves": Official Detective, True Detective . . . 212 

20 Porno-violence 214 

21 Mad 216 

22 Recommendations 217 

Endnotes 218 

Appendix: Survey of Violence and Non-Violence Depicted 

on Magazine Covers 221 

Preface: The Method 

In the following pages we offer a research essay rather 
than a social science report. Magazine content analysis 
may be placed in either category, of course, or 
somewhere in between. The method usually adopted in 
media studies within social science is to survey every 
«th issue of the magazines under review, use some 
quantitative measure, and then emerge with data that 
might or might not have some significance. A 
hypothesis such as the degree of violence in magazines 
may be proved, disproved, or unproved. The question of 
quality is not considered. There is no reference to 
aspects outside the disciplines of sociology, psychology, 
or other sciences, and certainly not to literature, philos- 
ophy, history, or personal experience. 

The study herewith is not of that nature. It does 
involve a bit of the writer's experience as a former 
magazine writer, but more importantly attempts to 
range through many "disciplines" as they serve the 
needs of the subject and to consider anything that 
"swims into our ken" as media watchers. It also 
includes some paragraphs from lectures past in 
journalism, communication, and mass media. To get as 
wide and as recent a spectrum as possible, magazines 
were selected casually in several fields from the first half 
of 1976 and with no particular selection principle. 

For help in the reading and annotation I wish to 
thank Al Baker, York University graduate student. It is 
a subjective essay as all essays are. 

Earle Beattie 


Chapter One 

The Corporate Economy 

The magazine industry must be seen in the light of the 
larger world of mass media around it and the still larger 
one around that which is the corporate economy, liber- 
alism, and democracy. It is. therefore, a part of any 
violence that exists in the environment. Any changes 
that are suggested must take this into account along 
with traditions that have guarded freedom of the press 
but have just as often seen it regarded as a publisher's 
hcence to do as he pleases. 

In Robert Stein's view. "Democracy gives us the 
freedom to be degraded or turn away."' 

The question of censorship is not whether to censor 
or not to censor, it is question of where, when, and who, 
as we have always had censors. Every media office has 
its own "internal censors", known as "Gatekeepers" in 
media studies. They decide what shall pass or not pass 
and to what extent. They set the agenda for the reading, 
listening, and viewing publics. When .something is 
withheld, very often it is not known to exist. Nor has the 
State been ruled out of any say in the process to make 
way for the private owners and media workers. It has 
had a necessary role and the problem here too is not 
State or No State, but how much State and in what way. 
More importantly, non-official, consumer, public 
accountability is now being sought. 

The problem must be seen also in the light of 
increasing concentration within the mass media, leading 
to mergers, combinations , mixed-media holdings, and 
the embedding of media in industrial conglomerates. 
Violence in or by media has this as backdrop. 

Some indication of size in media holdings may be 
gained by looking first at Time, Inc. Its statement in the 
December 1976 issue of Fortune announced that the 
corporation was "rapidly approaching its first billion- 
dollar year." That referred to total revenues. The net 
income for the third quarter was up by some 50 per cent 
to $12,523,000 while earnings for the nine months rose 
to $43,258,000. While Time, Inc., was built on the 
magazine of that name it is no longer confined to 
magazines alone, and this revenue includes books, other 
publishing, and forest products.^ 

In Canada, the largest magazine publisher, Maclean- 
Hunter had sales in 1975 amounting to $151.6 million. 

But besides consumer and trade magazines that figure 
included printing, books, radio stations, cable compa- 
nies, television companies, production of shows, exhibi- 
tions, and electronic equipment in several countries of 
the world. 

Southam Press, Ltd., owns 17 daily newspapers, 46 
business publications, and 40 other publications plus 
other properties including a recently-acquired interest 
in TV Guide. 

Southam and The Toronto Star through a subsidiary 
called Southstar own the newspaper magazine supple- 
ments The Canadian and Canadian Homes. Free Press 
Publications owns Weekend and Perspectives, rival 
supplements to Southstar's. 

In 1975, Canadian Advertising Rates and Data listed 
156 consumer magazines in Canada with a total distri- 
bution of 16.2 million copies, and there are about 85 
other magazines that do not report to card. They are 
divided between two Associations: The Magazine 
Association of Canada, representing 15 of the largest 
paid-circulation magazines, and the Canadian 
Periodical Publishers Association, founded with ten 
members and now representing 128 magazines. The 
highest average revenue per issue of any magazine in 
Canada in 1975 was Chatelaine's, with a gross of 
$660,000 per issue.^ 

The most notable magazine-publishing achievement 
of recent years was the conversion on October 6, 1975, 
of the long-standing general magazine Maclean's to a 
newsmagazine to be published 26 times a year. It 
arrived with 124 pages, including the covers, of which 
58 per cent were advertising. (That compared with 
Newsweek's 104 pages and Time's 108.) The passing by 
the federal government of Bill C-58, which removed 
Canadian status from Time in the Income Tax Act, 
made it possible for Macleans to garner more ads and 
publish in the more expensive news form. 

Although, as we show elsewhere in this paper, 
Maclean s as a news magazine published some violent 
covers in the first part of 1976, it was peaceful in this 
first issue. TTiere was some fascination with machination 
a la Time when, in three pages on the World, we heard 
about miniature metal detectors to be used by the U.S. 


secret service to find the guns around Ford, but that 
looked more like a filler than anything and the 
magazine was more saccharine than violent. This issue 
ended with the fairy-tale about Carole Taylor of crv, 
and her Prince Charming, the millionaire mayor of 

Toronto Life became a popular magazine in 1975 and 
surprised many in the magazine world by passing the 
50,000 mark. The same company commenced 
publishing a juvenile magazine called Owl which 
attained considerable success. Saturday Night, which 
suffered a hiatus for several months starting in 1974, 
came back to life again in 1975; it is now close to 
100,000 circulation. Two "controlled-circulation" (free- 
distribution) magazines proved financially successful: 
Homemakers with 1,232.000 circulation in English 
reaching some 32 cities ( Madame A u Foyer in French), 
and Quest, circulating in about 20 cities. Both are 
published by Comae Communications, a subsidiary of 
The Toronto Star. As a result some strong criticisms of 
the "free" magazine development are being heard in the 
magazine industry, which has traditionally asked people 
to pay for their magazines. 

Another free magazine. Calendar, began in Toronto 
in 1969 and has since been publishing in Montreal and 
Vancouver. This kind of freebie magazine, which gets 
circulation quickly in order to get advertising where the 
money is, includes another new one, the Financial Post 
Magazine. It goes out to 23,000 doctors' offices and is 
inserted in the Financial Post newspaper.^ From the 
above it would seem that Canadian magazines are now 
staging something of a renaissance, but total circulation 
relative to U.S. magazine distribution is small and 
problems with U.S. -owned news-stands have been 

The trade magazines are generally very profitable, 
taking in about $42 million in advertising revenue in 
1975, and here again there is free distribution with some 
exceptions. According to the Financial Post there are 
more than 60 groups across the country operating two 
or more periodicals. Total revenue from the Maclean- 
Hunter Business Publications division was some $21 


Chapter Two 

The Advertising Context of the Mainhne Commercial Magazine 

In July 1968 that massive Middle American magazine, 
77?^ Saturday Evening Post, carried out a manoeuvre 
that was so revolutionary in the history of magazines 
that it served to define in one stroke the whole meaning 
of mass media: it discarded three and a half million 
subscribers. For the purpose of this essay, this action 
sets the question of vicarious violence in its appropriate 
context: that of the modern industrial state in which 
people become consumers, rather than persons. 

The Post\ seemingly incomprehensible act cut its 
circulation from six and a half million subscribers to 
three million. A computer, programmed on a 
demographic basis, provided a print-out of the new list. 
If you were a Post subscriber receiving the magazine in 
your rural-route box near Pumpkin Junction, a living 
exemplar of the Norman Rockwell "just folks" image 
exploited by the Post so long, you were peremptorily 
expendable. In the inexorable logic of the computer, the 
publisher himself was struck off the delivery system; he 
too lived on a rural road. In pop-cultural shock, you 
may have been like the man in Lobo, Ontario, near 
London, who felt so deprived of this journalistic sus- 
tenance that he got a newspaper ombudsman-type 
columnist to get his subscription restored. The delivery 
was re-started on February 8, 1969, the day the Post 

Or as a Post subscriber you might have been that 
apocryphal little old lady in running shoes who 
celebrated her 75th birthday in a Manhattan flat, but 
despite her sophisticated urban environment found 
herself /'o5r-less just the same. With her, it was age and 
perhaps income. To qualify as one of the Chosen 
Computer People you had to fit the demographic model 
programmed for the ideal Post reader which could be 
profiled as "youngish, living in an urban area and 
having a good income." In short, as a subscriber you 
had to be in a position to buy some of the goods being 
advertised in the magazine. The message was clear and 
it cut beneath all the cant of the "dear reader" fiction so 
long promoted by mass media editors: "Goodbye, 
you're a nuisance to us, dear reader, because you don't 
buy the goods advertised in our magazine and it costs us 
money to send it to you." 

Now, the reader stood suddenly stripped in the 
glaring light of reality: he was not a person, but a 
consumer in a consumer society. (Money was not 
automatically refunded; his subscription was sent to 
another magazine.) To many a reader the blow was 
sharp, for had he not been reinforced and indulged over 
the years with the narcissistic image of Post stories that 
he was Captain America himself, a homespun rugged 
individual, a cowboy at heart, descendant of bluff" New 
England seamen, the salt of the earth, and above all. 
Needed. Not a person to be cast off, let alone sold slave- 
like to another publication he hadn't ordered. 

Adding insult to injury of the old readers, Bill 
Emerson, the Post's final editor, rationalized it all this 
way: "We are editing for more urban, sophisticated and 
better-educated readers . . . now we can be blunter, hit 
harder, make more demands." An admission surely that 
they had pulled their punches for those sterling readers 
who were, despite their long-portrayed ruggedness, not 
able to take it. The flattering reflection of themselves 
was gone; in fact, now they were being called rural 

The real reason for throwing over those three and a 
half million readers was not that the Post, in a spirit of 
enlightenment, wanted to speak up boldly on social 
issues but that it wanted what advertisers call a "target 
audience." The metropolis with its Playboy, Playgirl, 
and Cosmopolitan boys and girls, nicely packaged in 
high-rises, its young marrieds in split-levels and families 
in townhouses, the jet-set, the Pop Art people, the Pepsi 
generation, were easy spendthrifts and easy to reach. 
Advertisers could aim accurately at them as targets; 
they were concentrated, densely packed, new entrants 
into the market with standardized and known needs - in 
a word, consumers. 

Contrarily, the subscribers in the villages, in the small 
towns, and on the country roads were widely dispersed, 
with varying tastes, and. growing old, were not as 
consumption-minded. So it was out with the Troglo- 
dytes, in with the McLuhanites. 

Obviously, the Name of the Game is not investigative 
journalism as portrayed on the television series of that 
name, but Advertising. Its domination is so great that 



even expert media men said that the Post failed because 
its readers went thataway. In the Post\ case it was 
clearly the advertisers who left - at least in terms of 
what might have been without television and compe- 
tition from slicker, more sophisticated and specialized 

From 1961 to 1969 the publishing company, Curtis, 
had a reported loss of $62 million from its magazines, 
most of it attributed to the Post. In 1968 the Post lost $5 
million according to Newsweek of January 20, 1969. 

"There is no question that Madison Avenue lost faith 
in the Post. Advertising pages last year numbered 904 
compared with 4,425 in 1950," Newsweek reported. Its 
opinion was that the Curtis company failed to diversify 
like other print-media companies, who were going into 
broadcasting and other ventures. It turned down oppor- 
tunities to buy CBS and abc and preferred to remain an 
integrated publishing company that started out with 
forest reserves and a paper mill. In other words, it 
would not regard its magazines as parts of a conglom- 
erate or even a mixed-media empire as the trend is 

The Post'?, big following was, like so many magazines 
in the United States, built on the same kind of policies 
that made Luce and DeWitt Wallace rich and powerful. 
Newsweek, cited above, about summarized it thus: 

It preached conservative Republicanism, extolled big business, 
castigated Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and in the process 
became remarkably wealthy . . . Every Thursday the great 
middle class curled up with the Post to follow the adventures of 
Mr. Moto, Alexander Botts and Clarence Budington Kelland's 
hero Scattergood Baines . . . and to be comforted by the covers 
of Norman Rockwell. Rockwell's paintings were supposed to 
mirror the America that read the Post. But more and more the 
reality wasn't there any more - if it ever was . . . America was 
going urban and was mesmerized by TV. Millions of former 
general-magazine readers now read only the TV listings 
regularly. [Similarly] television delivered the coup de grace to 
Collier's in 1956...' 

Still, it is incredible that six and a half million people 
want a magazine and that isn't enough to finance it. 
Obviously, magazines, like other mass media, are now 
totally dependent on advertising. The advertising camel 
who tentatively put his head into the Arab's tent a 
century ago has now taken over the tent. Advertising 
was a reluctantly accepted guest in the early magazines, 
but increasingly welcome as it began to pay most of the 
bills; and it did make many magazines independent of 
other patrons. Unfortunately, the subscriber's money 
accounted for a smaller and smaller proportion, and so 
a new dependency on business and its advertising 
agencies developed. Readers were actually not charged 
enough for their magazines and like the listeners and 
viewers of the electronic media came to regard media 
cheaply. In some cases they were "free". But the fact is 
that the subscriber actually pays the whole price as the 
cost of the advertising is part of the price of the goods 
that he buys. 

It is often said by people in the media industries that 

advertising does not "influence" editorial content. 
However it is more than mere influence that occurs. It is 
life and death. Advertising calls the shots on whether a 
magazine should live, die, go into limbo as Saturday 
Night did for upwards of a year, or resurrect as The 
Saturday Evening Post did in a new, nostalgic monthly 
form. Advertising revenue is now the life-blood of 
publication as it is of all mass media. From the days 
when advertising made the penny press possible to the 
present, advertising has gradually dominated media, big 
and small. In daily newspaper and magazine offices, the 
layout sheets arrive with the advertising blocked in first; 
the editorial material (news, features, articles) is then 
filled into the spaces between the ads. (There are, of 
course, a few reservations where ads cannot go, but very 
few, and the increasing appearance of ads at various 
junctures of the articles, including the right-hand or 
facing pages, make editorial layout a mockery for many 

In brief, public information, editorial comment, 
public opinion, and entertainment are now largely 
dependent on the wishes of companies and government 
advertising departments or their ad agencies, in some 
cases on the vulgar irrelevancy of a deodorant for 
underarm odour. We would call this "doing violence" to 
the entire democratic ideal. Indeed the whole decision- 
making process in public information rests on chance 
ownerships and media "gatekeepers" who have no 
public accountability, and on many who do not even 
have training. (Journalism is not a profession in 

The problem of violence in the media must be seen in 
this context as it is part of the problem of accountability 
generally. Most "press councils," such as the Ontario 
Press Council, are not independent accountability 
bodies, being controlled by the media themselves. There 
is obviously a need for an independent national media 
council or press council as recommended by Senator 
Keith Davey in the report of the Special Senate 
Committee on the Mass Media.- 

For some The Saturday Evening Post in its business 
chauvinism was better dead than read, but its disap- 
pearance and the near-failure of other magazines such 
as Saturday Night open vitally important questions on 
ownership, control, and decision-making in the mass 
media. Advertising may terminate many media by its 
absence, but it can hurt also by its presence. One 
perceptive writer, Marya Mannes, appears like a 
prophet now when we look back at what she said in 
1962. Commenting on "the prices we pay for our 
newsprint, our television, our information and 
entertainment," she wrote: 

It is a question which our mass magazines in particular had 
better ask themselves and which this particular reader suspects 
is at the root of their troubles ... In their ferocious competition 
for advertising space, they may find themselves gaining 
revenue but losing readers. Can you be equally magazine and 
market, or is there a point at which the market is more than the 




She noted that advertising intrudes at every point in a 
person's Hfe. It becomes a kind of psychopathology of 
everyday Hfe. to use Freud's title: billboards sharing the 
presence of trees, electric signs that dim the stars in a 
city, beer-jingle commercials; and, as she observes: 

. . . the readers of tabloids turn over twelve pages of 
merchandise to find one paragraph of print.'' 

Ms. Mannes surveyed Life. Look, and The Saturday 
Evening Post for their mix of ads and editorial material, 
all of which have ceased publication since she wrote. 
She found that L//e's ad-editorial ration had risen from 
six per cent in 1937 to 50 per cent in 1962, and just to 
confirm her forecast that ad intrusions were violating 
reading space. The Reporter magazine in which her 
article appeared, was soon to collapse. 

I started this examination with an issue that appeared during 
the first year of Li/e's existence on January 4. 1937. It 
contained sixty-eight pages, of which fifty-nine were editorial. 
The body of the magazine consisted of forty-nine editorial 
pages without any advertising whatsoever, the subjects being 
the Netherlands royal family, sports, racing, the Metropolitan 
Opera opening, the Roosevelt administration (sixteen pages), 
Maillol, the Camera Overseas, Ribbentrop, the French and 
Germans, the Cubans and the Danes ... By the end of 1937, 
Life had a circulation of 1,384,000 and an advertising revenue 
of some $4.4 million. Twenty-four years later, by the end of 
1961, Life% circulation had risen to nearly seven million copies, 
its advertising revenue to over $138 million. The formula that 
originated this revolution in publishing would have seemed, 
therefore, to work. Yet it has not worked for me ... In other 
random issues during the last ten years we have Isaac Stern 
and Leonard Bernstein wedged between Borden's cow Elsie 
and a little girl using a Sylvania iron, a full-page Tareyton 
color ad facing the crash of a DC 8 jet, and a photograph of 
Pasternak's funeral, with his beloved Olga kissing the poet's 
dead brow, facing an ad for the Commercial Banks, U.S., in 
which a fellow is hamming in amateur theatricals. A 
magnificent full-page photograph of Etruscan tomb figures 
faces a coia-and-rum ad; a subtle and lovely Degas-like color 
photograph of a ballet is nullified by a full-page bowl of 
tomato soup. James Agee is sandwiched between Falling Hair, 
Tums, and Choco Cherry Spumoni; Sir Charles Snow is 
squeezed between constipation and valentines. Professor 
Tizard between colored fruits and glue. Hurricane waves 
lashing at a Texas tower, which they ultimately destroyed 
along with its crew, compete for attention with a smiling full- 
page goddess in Formfit girdle and bra . . . Again, these 
grotesque distractions are not confined to Life. Look, its closest 
rival, is sometimes as much of a hodgepodge, a supermarket in 
which a shelf of information, news, or sports is alternated with 
soups, dog food, cars, cigarettes and beer . . . Besides giving its 
readers such quantities of facts. Life taught them how to think, 
how to react, and how to vote, handing down a steady barrage 
of editorial counsel on political matters, national and interna- 
tional, and on cultural and moral problems of the day .... Can 
a magazme have its cake and eat it too? ... It is the stated high 
purpose, the presumption of a magazine to educate its readers, 
that makes its truckling to the advertisers open to the sharpest 
questioning. If the supermarket is the victor, the reader is the 
victim. And once he is aware of that, the mass magazine is in 

In the author's view, then. Time, Look, and other 

general-circulation magazines suffered, not from a lack 
of readers who wanted to buy the magazines, but from 
two things: ( 1 ) the quantity and quality of advertising - 
in this it was not only the bad taste and clutter of the 
ads, but the choking surfeit of them; (2) in the case of 
Luce's Life, it was becoming a missionary, a cold-war 
warrior of the most negative, necrophiliac type. Increas- 
ingly, and boringly. this dour world-end script was 
added to the picture, and like advertising it became a 
partner in domination. America was just not that inter- 
ested in shrill proselytizing. 

Television came along, of course, and a third reason 
for magazine demise can be advanced which is borne 
out by the figures. More and more advertising switched 
over to the new medium. Moving pictures on the small 
screen right in your living-room were now more exciting 
than still pictures in a magazine, although the adver- 
tising, equally interruptive and even more banal, was 
there. It is possible, therefore, that television's greed for 
higher and higher dividends through ad-clutter will 
have lethal results. The Globe and Mail business section 
of January 8, 1977. despite its newspaper advertising 
bias, headlines a story by William J. Thompson: 
"Marketing for consumers. TV advertising industry 
destroying its own credibility." 

The author writes: 

The television advertising industry in Canada, in fact in North 
America, appears bent on something approaching suicide . . . 
In a recent address to the Montreal Advertising and Sales 
Club, Robert Miller (a former advertising executive) . . . points 
out that the way we interrupt TV with commercials these days is 
a disgrace. The unbelievable arrogance with which consumers 
are treated by those responsible for commercials which are silly 
and insulting in mind-boggling proportions is equally 

Newspapers and magazines, of course, share the self- 
serving myth that advertising in papers or magazines 
does not interrupt. Those who start to read articles or 
stories in any publication know differently. They are 
forced from Page One in a newspaper to jump over to 
an inside page to finish reading a news story and then 
have to go back to Page One again to start another, ad 
infinitum, in a steeplechase through the paper with the 
ads as hurdles that they presumably can't miss. 
Magazines similarly propel the reader from the front of 
the "book" to pages in the middle and back so that he 
or she will stumble in serendipity fashion on the ads. 

It is not that all advertising should be eliminated from 
mass media. Some media have served well as a market- 
place for goods, as well as ideas, but not in that volume 
with that financial and social cost, that pounding repeti- 
tion, that clutter, bad taste, misinformation, seduction 
of the child, wastage in absorption of human and 
natural resources, and that premium to big corporations 
over small companies in hawking brand names of no 
superior merit because advertising is expensive. It 
becomes a dominating force, an immovable object with 
violence being done to the whole classic liberal ideal 


that truth will arise through competing ideas. Today, 
chain journaHsm and media conglomerates simply 
mean that business ideology receives prominence. 
Magazine publishing in the main has become big 
business and a part of national or even multinational 

The Globe and Mail business page cited above also 
announced under the head "International Company 
News" that "CBS buys publishing firm for $50 million." 
The company it acquired was Fawcett Publications, 
Inc. A privately held publishing house established in 
1919, with revenue of some $135 million in 1976, it 
publishes Women's Day, with a circulation of eight 
million, Mechanix Illustrated, Rudder, an old boating 
magazine, 30 other special-interest magazines, and 
mass-market paperback books sold under the Crest and 
Gold Medal imprints. 

In the same issue, we read how "Murdoch wins 
control of magazine group." It says "Australian 
publisher Rupert Murdoch has won control of the New 
York Magazine group after one of the bitterest 
executive suite battles seen in the United States in 

The small cultural products of the past, produced by 
individuals in a personal way who were primarily inter- 
ested in ideas, have given way to industrialization and 
become "commodities" that are bought and sold for 
capital gain or profit with little thought of quality. For 
that, big audiences must be made bigger to attract more 
adertising and lowest common denominator values, 
including a Roman arena of violence. 

The final days of the Posfs, existence were like a 
corporate jungle, according to one of its chroniclers, 
Otto Friedrich, who was editor from 1965 to the end. 
William French reviewed his book. Decline and Fall, in 
the July 4, 1970, issue of The Globe Magazine (since 
collapsed to make way for the standardized supplement 
Weekend.) He tells how Friedrich left Newsweek to get 
away from office politics: 

Little did he know he was walking right into the biggest show 
in the Corporate Coliseum with the lions and the Christians 
slavering to get at each other . . . Decline and Fall is not so 
much about magazine journalism - although there is a good 
deal of that - but about corporate cannibalism and the flaws of 
the free enterprise system . . . Friedrich concluded: "There is 
something essentially wrong with an economic and social 
system that is based so solidly on the instincts of greed and 
aggression . . . [It] is a system that is fundamentally indifl'erent 
to the requirements in civilized life." 

The modern industrial state with its various models of 
violence may partly explain mass media violence. 


Chapter Three 

What are Magazines? 

Let us start at Square One with the question: What are 

Magazines as constituted today are print and picture 
packages of information that usually include adver- 
tising, opinions, and. in some cases, creative expression, 
such as fiction and poetry; they are issued periodically, 
where the period is more than a day but less than six 
months. Thus an annual or a semi-annual publication 
ordinarily is not called a magazine. A magazine must 
also be distinguished from a journal, a term usually 
reserved for a specialized monthly or quarterly publi- 
cation devoted to an academic discipline or a profes- 
sion, though some newspapers and some magazines still 
use it, e.g. Ottawa Journal, Ladies Home Journal. (In 
point of etymology, "journal" derives from the French 
and means "daily." It really belongs more to the daily 
newspaper than to other publications.) 

"Magazine," as we point out in a brief comment 
elsewhere on history, comes from the French word 
magasin, "store." Unlike the specialized journal, which 
attempts in-depth treatment of subjects, the magazine is 
a variety or general store for tastes of many people, a 
casual and popular emporium for the layman. For all 
that distinction, it will be seen that the general magazine 
(Saturday Evening Post, the old Maclean's, Life, 
Collier's) has almost gone the way of the old general 
store. It is being replaced by the "shop" or boutique, 
catering to special interests and levels in relation to 
class, income, sex, cognitions, though more facets are 
presented than in the specialist journal. 

The daily issue of information constitutes a 
newspaper, a bulletin, a newsletter. These terms are also 
used, of course, for less frequent publication of news: 
tri-weekly, semi-weekly, and weekly. Frequency of 
issue, however, is not the only criterion for defining a 
magazine. Form is important, insofar as magazines 
attempt to be less formal than journals and more 
formal, less expendable, than newspapers through 
various printing and graphic techniques that usually 
include paper of better quality than newsprint (though 
not necessarily as in the case of some small-circulation 
magazines) and more attention to binding, layout, and 
design. The use of colour, art work, photography, and 

decorative forms of illustration also characterize many 

Style of writing is an important aspect and, generally 
speaking, the magazine article makes use of a patterned, 
more individualistic style with identification of the 
writer as compared with the newspaper where most 
news stories are anonymous and in formula style. 
Magazine writing is not necessarily writing of higher 
quality than newspaper writing or other journalism such 
as news-film scripting. Straight reporting, "background 
pieces", interpretative writing, columns, and editorials 
may ofi'er prose that is on a high level, but the magazine 
piece for thoughtful magazines has greater possibilities 
for research, reflection, and style because ordinarily 
there is greater time available for research and writing. 
Newspapers operate under greater pressure, although 
newsmagazines find themselves in a last-minute 
scramble as deadlines approach. Additionally, there is 
much journalistic updating now in many magazines. 

Oliver Clausen, a former Time writer, has described 
the particular pressure in the former Canadian 
"edition" office: 

Time's editorial office in Montreal is a pretty light-hearted 
place. It has to be if only to make up for the notorious pressure 
under which Time is produced. Beer and liquor are stocked in a 
back room for instant unwinding.' 

But on the whole the magazine writer is given more time 
or takes more, especially if he is a freelancer. The author 
is reminded of an interview many years ago with the 
late Ian Sclanders, Articles Editor of Maclean's, 
concerning his first freelance article. "When can you 
turn it in?" Sclanders asked. Hesitating, the author 
replied, "It will take a couple of months." 

"Good," Sclanders said, "that means we will 
probably get the article," and he explained "I usually 
get a reply like, 'Will next Thursday be okay?' Then I 
know he's not a magazine writer." 

"Next Thursday" has increasingly become the rule as 
the longer well-documented article gives way to the 
short stylistic piece that stays more or less on the 

Nevertheless it can be said that the magazine world 
allows for more perspective than the newspaper world 


and operates in the "middle distance." Books normally 
have been in the "deep distance" by comparison, but 
today there are so many superficial magazines and so 
many "instant books" that the old protection of 
perspective is diminishing. 

A continual diet of Lamb's Essays of Elia is not 
advocated, but there must be some room for a Lamb 
and certainly something short of the violence outlined 
by William A. Emerson, the final editor of the old 
Saturday Evening Post, who said: 

I don't want to stir a tingling sensation in the reader of the Post 
... I want to jolt him as with an electric shock. I want my 
magazine to have an effluvium like St. Elmo's fire: crackling 
and glowing.' 

He was speaking to the Annual Luncheon Audience of 
the Audit Bureau of Circulation in Toronto. The time 
was October 18, 1967, just two years before the Post 
became extinct like a volcano though it flared up later 
into a small-circulation nostalgia magazine. Emerson 
called his talk "Vitality, the Genius of 

The notion of gentleness or calm consideration in 
magazines as in many novels has vanished, giving place 
to "realism" and to the "real people," who are said to be 
fabulous or devastating in print, or cool, sophisticated 

A hundred years ago exactly, the Canadian magazine 
The New Dominion Monthly, in its January to June 
Index 1877, included such titles as: "An April Pleasure 
Sail," "Life on an Indian Reserve," "The Average Man 
of General Information," and (horrors) "A Carnivorous 
Plant," by Mrs. Mary Treat. ^ 

But in that final issue of The Saturday Evening Post on 
February 8, 1969, the titles were: "School is Bad for 
Children," "Peace in Vietnam (How do we get out? 
Three who came home, where do we go from here?)," 
"The Rebirth of the blues: Soul." "The Second Coming 
of Synanon," "Anybody Want to Buy Chicago?" 

The old kind of elite, literary, nature-loving, history- 
musing, travel-interest magazine may have been just too 
reflective and leisured for the frenetic world of the 
hydrogen bomb, but perhaps for that reason something 
akin to these calm thoughts is needed. Transcendental 
meditation and other nerve-relaxing antidotes to 
modern stress are being followed by millions in the 
West today while the media pump out their violence. 
There is even a School for Violence-writing, so to speak, 
reminiscent of Sheridan's School for Scandal. It is called 
Writer's Digest. In the June 1976 issue, the novelist 
Arthur Hailey is featured on the cover with the blurb. 
"The bestselling novelist who doesn't sell sex and 
violence (Well, maybe a little bit)." However, a man in 
Airport wants to blow up a plane, and a gang of criminal 
avengers in The Moneychangers inflict savage cruelty on 
an embezzler turned informer. 

Other writers pick up their cues from Writer's Digest: 
one writer says, "Last September Ace paperbacks 

published a western of mine. 'Vengeance Seeker,'" and 

his story details how. 

Placing the Colt on the top of the desk, he closed the drawer, 
then fitted his hand almost lovingly around the butt . . . Poking 
the six-gun's barrel well into the wound. Ruel npped upward. 
The stitches came out and a dark flood followed after . . . Ruel 
thrust the barrel into the freshly opened wound and fired. The 
explosion filled the tiny room with a deafening whomp . . . 
How many bullets had they sent into that crazy kid? He stirred 
uneasily at the thought. They'd shot him twice: once in the left 
shoulder and the second time in the back. That first slug would 
account for the crooked shoulder, then . . . The multiple 
viewpoint then is an excellent way to broaden your characteri- 
zation and keep your reader on top of the action. Why not try 
it with your next novel and revel in the the range and 
excitement it adds to your story? . . . (pp. 22-25) 

. . . If you are confounded by flat characters, re-examine 
their anatomy. Give them backbone. You'll see them 
come alive and grow into scrappy, vibrant, living 
characters, (p. 49)'' 

Hailey sententiously observes: 

My books are not loaded with sex . . . Part of this is a personal 
rebellion against some of the crudity that's written. It becomes 
a challenge to write a book that's interesting on its own merits 
and does not rely on sex or violence. Hemingway, Maugham, 
none of the great writers were crude. I couldn't write a book 
that relied on sex or violence. If such passages create a market 
- and I doubt it - it's certainly not the kind of market that 
interests me. 

The interviewer says: "Yet in The Moneychangers there 
is more violence and sex than in any of your previous 
books. Why?" 

Hailey replies that, when he was dining with E.P. 
Taylor at the Lyford Cay Yacht Club in Nassau. Taylor 
(now in his seventies) said. "Arthur. I hope you put 
some sex in your next book." And so, Hailey. thinking 
that maybe he was getting old. says "I decided to turn 
Avril loose, who as you know is a beautiful and sophis- 
ticated call girl." In this way. E.P. Taylor became a 
literary adviser over Hemingway and Maugham.^ 


Chapter Four 

Kinds Of Magazines and Their Audiences 

The Praise of Folly 

There are, broadly, two types of magazines: consumer 
and specialized. The word "consumer" is really a trade 
name and rather meaningless. It once referred to the 
large-circulation, general-content national magazine 
reaching a cross section of readers and carrying adver- 
tising for the layman, e.g. everyday products for food, 
drink, cars, et cetera, but this is now going the way of 
the dodo. Among Canadian magazines, such a 
definition has included Maclean's, Chatelaine, Le 
Magazine Maclean, Saturday Night, the two newspaper 
supplements. Weekend and The Canadian, and others 
that have ceased publication. Imports from the United 
States now number only two of the old-definition 
consumer magazine, Time and Reader's Digest, with the 
latter claiming to be Canadian and allowed to do so 
legally because of some Canadian content and some 
Canadian shareholding. U.S. consumer magazines that 
have gone out of business over the years include 
Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, Life, and Look. 

As most of the magazine world has become 
fragmented by specialization in content, a realistic 
definition has had to broaden the word "consumer." 
For example. Miss Chatelaine is national, but is highly 
specialized too; so is Books in Canada. Toronto Life, like 
Vancouver Life, is mainly citybound, but it has all the 
other qualities of "consumerism." In effect any 
magazine carrying advertising goes to potential 
consumers of the goods advertised, including 
specialized magazines. 

In fact many of the latter group are now called 
"consumer," and a new definition, plus a new name, is 
called for. The definition would be along this line: A 
periodical issued at least quarterly that is made 
generally available to the public. It might well be called 
a "public magazine." 

While Toronto Life is not a general-content, national 
magazine it is available to anyone by subscription and - 
more relevantly to the definition, on the new.s-stand in 
its area. 

The question of whether the magazine is provided 
"free" in some areas (by "controlled distribution," to 
use the trade term) or only for a subscription is not 

being considered at this point. Readers in some areas 
get Quest and Homemakers free; other can get them by 

The other broad division, "specialized," is reserved 
for magazines that are generally not on the news-stand 
and are sent out free or for a subscription, but to such 
specialized groups as the professions and occupations. 
Within this specialized sector there are (1) the "trade" 
magazines, now called "business papers" (both names 
are undescriptive) such as Canadian Grocer , Bus and 
Truck, Home, which are turned out by publishing firms 
like Maclean-Hunter and Southam, and (2) the 
"industrial magazines" which are published by compa- 
nies, associations and other organizations, e.g. Imperial 
Oil Review , Hudson's Bay Beaver, of which there are 
two types: (a) "external" - sent out to customers, 
suppliers, government and legislative members, et cetera 
for public-relations reasons, and (b) "internal" or 
"house" for employees and other personnel and 
concerned with staff news, chit-chat, et cetera. Some 
industrial magazines are both "internal" and "external" 
in their content. There are a very large number of these 
industrial magazines in Canada reaching large numbers 
of people. They need a new name too. Perhaps "private 
magazines". In addition there are all the magazines 
received by doctors, lawyers, academicians, other 
professions and occupations. These are not ofl^ered to 
the public at large. We are not referring here to 
"journals", discussed elsewhere. 

Consumer magazines also have big "audiences" (to 
use the research term). The total circulation of 
magazines in Canada belonging to and audited by the 
Audit Bureau of Circulation was 12,735,060 per issue in 
1974, of which U.S. magazines accounted for 9,898,060 
and Canadian magazines, 2,837,000.' Annual adver- 
tising is reported at $50 million, which is only 1 1 per 
cent of the estimated gross advertising revenue for all 
forms of media in Canada, totalling $2.3 billion, 
including outdoor advertising and catalogues.^ 

The circulation of all daily newspapers in Canada 
( 1 15) is by comparison about five million. Circulation of 
weeklies, semi-weeklies and tri-weeklies has to be added 
to that to obtain an estimate of newspaper reading. 


As we point out elsewhere in this paper in 
commenting on advertising, the general magazine like 
The Salurdav Evening Post failed, in large part, because 
advertisers wanted "target audiences," and so audiences 
have been split into thousands of fragments. Whether 
the advertisers weaned the big audiences away from the 
general magazine for their own purposes, or whether the 
audience interests and cognitions served to instruct 
publishers on what kind of magazine to produce if they 
wanted to zero in on particular consumers for particular 
products is a chicken-and-egg question. But obviously if 
you want to sell retirement housing in Florida, the 
magazine Seventeen is not your medium. The fact is that 
Maclean?, is not your best medium either, as related to 
cost, because here the relatively high rate includes 
thousands of readers in their 20s, 30s and 40s who 
haven't got around to thinking in those terms yet. The 
older group you want to reach where sales should be 
higher might well be readers of the magazine 
Retirement, or one for a more exclusive older-age group. 
And vice-versa for that June 1976 ad in Seventeen, 
"Fantastic Hand-Crocheted String Bikini" or Harcum 
Junior College, would scarcely fit our senior citizen 

No doubt, the consumer-product and producer- 
consumer feedback loops work out to a perceived 
mutual advantage up to the point where mild fixation 
and over-specialization occurred. Morris Wolfe looks 
upon it as having a manipulative eflfect: 

The trouble with specialized magazines read by scientifically 
pre-selected audiences is that a highly fragmented audience, 
each fragment told very much what it wants to hear, may be 
only in the interest of government and business technocrats. A 
fragmented society is easier to govern and control.' 

It is certainly an audience that is easier to sell to, which 
of course is also a matter of control. 

At any rate the audiences for and the varieties of 
magazines exploded in the post-war world and its 
splinters covered all sorts of cognitions, deviances, 
prejudices, tastes, fantasies, wishes, memories, wants, 
and needs of body and mind. The range was from the 
foul to the sublime, but mostly the former. There are 
now magazines for he-men, she-men, and men's men, 
for the homemaker and the home-breaker; sadists, 
masochists, and maso-sadists; snobs and slobs; voyeurs 
of men and voyeurs of women; fetish black boot lickers; 
female libera tionists and female enslavers; for children 
so young they have to be read to, teenagers of different 
ages, and young marrieds. There are magazines of 
serious social analysis and where social concern itself is 
a kind of freak thing like The Beaver, which Writer's 
Digest calls "The wild life magazine for men, age 18-34 
. . . interested in sex, cars, scandal in government et 
cetera.'"* There are magazines for commuter-farmers; 
farmers who disdain commuters; workers and those off 
duty (Hong Kong has one called OffDutv for 
servicemen and other off-duty government employees). 
There are magazines of fiction and of articles which are 

virtually all fiction (Midnight), of false confessions and 
untrue True Stories; intellectual magazines, filth 
magazines, and muckraker magazines; of the Far Right, 
the Far Left, but mostly the Middle. And magazines for 
the Know-Nothing, the non-concentration kind, for 
thumbing rather than reading. 

There are magazines for every shade of political 
thought through Naziism to Anarchism; there is the 
never-changing rose-covered Family Journal for aging 
idyllic-nostalgic, English-countryside dreamers, 
complete with vicar and old yew tree; there is Cape 
Breton's Magazine published irregularly in Wreck Cove, 
N.S., with Micmac Indian tales and bits of Gaelic' 

In short, a wild range of magazines: genera, species, 
sub-species, a Galapagos Islands of minute variation for 
the survival or the decline of the human species. There 
are in this sub-species of fetishes, men who prefer in 
their fantasies to view Caning magazine rather than 
Spanking or Bondage, that is imaginatively to use the 
cane against the bottoms of girls rather than the hand, 
or to see them trussed up and to fawn over their black 
boots. The new variations of the deviations obviously 
uncovered an untapped resource of readers who could 
be cued with a cane yet might recoil at vicarious hand- 
spanking. But of course there would be some overlap- 
ping, as some readers would buy all three. 

They are all distorted mirrors of humanity in the 
sense that the magazine images are thought by their 
readers to be true reflections of themselves, the he-man 
or playboy image, for instance. 

The reader sees a superman, a Walter Mitty image of 
himself, a projection that is invariably far from his real 
self. It is a form of the auto-eroticism of Narcissus. In 
Freudian terms it arises not from the object-libido but is 
cathected onto oneself as the reader sees what he would 
like to be, but obviously is not. 

Sometimes the sex angle is used to impale the reader 
who will then be treated to tales of violence like the 
synthetic sex attractants used to lure the black carpet 
beetle and pinebark beetle to their doom. 

In a way magazine readers tend to become fans, 
faithful readers on the principle of selective perception, 
seeking only reinforcement of their view of life rather 
than encounter contrary or challenging views. 
Demographic programming with some sick psychic 
servicing on motivational research lines takes place. 
Inevitably, the mind narrows, communication is made 
difficult, introversion follows and with it occurs a kind 
of self-inflicted violence. 

Such concentration tends to tunnel vision, people 
become solipsistic if not narcissistic. Erasmus expressed 
this audience-addiction in these terms five centuries ago 
when he wrote The Praise of Follv in 1511. (Interestingly 
enough, the book was illustrated by the woodcut 
drawings of Albrecht Diirer. who employed this new 
and formidable mass media device to show Folly as a 
young woman got up in an academic gown and a 
donkey's cap that ended in a jester's bow.) Folly is the 


Scholarly Fool, a female satyr and something of an 
ironic burlesque of herself in that she also represents the 
female sex figure which has always been so attractive in 
the virgin mythology of man. 

'i am she - the only she, I may say - whose divine 
influence makes gods and men rejoice," Folly 
proclaims. In speaking to an assembly of academics, of 
"foolosophers." she literally "puts on" her audience, to 
use a McLuhanesque term, wears it like a mask, 
signifies its pretensions in her person. She notes how the 
audience brightens when she, the Fool, steps up to 
speak because they have had a few drinks. These 
"solemn asses" are as much interested in entertainment 
as any frivolous group, but they make out that they are 
not. Folly then speaks in praise of herself and deems it 
as decent as the self-praise of "the best people and 
scholars even." 

With a certain adverse modesty they are wont to convey 
instructions to some sycophantic speaker or prattling poet 
whom they have engaged at a fee; and then they hear back from 
him iheir praises, that is to say, some pure fiction. The blushing 
listener meanwhile spreads his plumes like a peacock and 
bridles while the brazen adulator searches among the gods to 
find a parallel for this good-for-nothing and proposes him as 
the complete exemplar of all virtues - from which the man 
himself knows that he is farther away than twice infinity 
[Emphasis added].*" 

Here is indeed an early satire on the reinforced 
audience and its purchase of palatable messages. Little 
has changed. Volume One, "The Uncertain Mirror," of 
the Special Senate Committee Report on the Mass 
Media noted that "... in a land of bubblegum forests 
and lollipop trees, every man would have his own 
newspaper or broadcasting station, devoted exclusively 
to programming that man's opinion and perceptions."'' 
In fact he comes very close to this with the plethora of 
magazines and their fine shadings of audience-interests. 

Next to the narrowness that stultifies (though of 
course some magazines are less this way than others) 
there is the over-immersion in a surrogate world which, 
despite its breadth or depth, remains a substitute for 
living. Katherine Govier, a writer for Toronto Life, 
expressed it this way in the October 1976 issue: 

Readers focussed on glossy pages are oblivious to life passing 
by. They gobble up ads and news and gossips and reviews, 
barely dislinguishmg one from the other, finding themselves 
everywhere, getting the whole gamut of human experience for 
a buck without the hassle of other people . . . New Yorker 
readers are the worst. They never even talk, except to quote 
Pauline Kael. They just flash the covers and the altitudes at 
one another . . . Strange the way people live. He stays home 
and reads. I stay home and write. We both hunger for 
something that transcends ordinary life. Media is a kind of 
peaceful murder, a hastening of immortality. It keeps the 
neighbors and police from getting on your nerves.* 


Chapter Five 

Violence May be Good or Bad: Biophilia and Necrophilia 

Our position here is that violence may be good or bad in 
actuaUty and in the media. Certainly, every portrayal of 
violence cannot be condemned. Questions arise as to 
the meaning, frequency, extent, style, manner of 
conveyance, intent, character of the message-makers, 
characteristics of the message, audience, use of medium, 
and any known effects. This has been summarized by 
Harold Lasswell as a study of "Who says what, through 
what medium, to whom, and with what effect."' But the 
effects, the consequences, are of course the unknown 
quantity in this formula and the reason for enquiries 
such as that of this commission. Almost all studies of 
media devolve on the crucial question of social conse- 
quences and all research shows it to be a highly complex 
issue. As Joseph Klapper concluded from his research 
on others' research: 

Mass communication does not serve as a necessary and 
sufficient cause of audience effects, but rather functions among 
and through a nexus of mediating factors and influences.- 

The media are more likely to reinforce the existing 
conditions than to change them. Although he has 
pointed out that there are occasions when "mass 
communication does function in the service of change," 
Klapper says one of two conditions is likely to exist. 

3. a. the mediating factors will be found to be inoperative and 
the effect of the media will be found to be direct; OR 

b. the mediating factors, which normally favor reinforcement, 
will be found to be themselves impelling toward change. 

4. There are certain residual situations in which mass commu- 
nication seems to produce direct effects, or directly out of itself 
to serve certain psycho-physical functions.' 

The Lasswell formula, "Who says what, et cetera," 
should, of course, include in the "to whom" (audience 
analysis) a consideration of the role of selective 
perception wherein every message is changed by the 
individual receiver. People psychologically censor 
messages to suit their own needs and predispositions 
with a resulting effect on the message. Distortion 
occurs; additions occur that were not present in the 
original message, and subtractions of unpalatable 
material take place. The message can. in fact, become 

diametrically different in the mind of the receiver from 
what it was when transmitted by the message-maker. 
There are thus two meanings for every message and 
therefore two effects. We see and hear what we want to 
see and hear. In Lippmann's words, "We do not at first 
see, and then define, we define first and then see," or, as 
McLuhan has epitomized it, "Believing is seeing." 
Studies in cognitive dissonance similarly reveal how 
people "change" an object, an experience, or an image 
to suit their needs and reduce conflict within 

The difficulty of isolating a mass media message or 
many messages as the sole cause of any behaviour in the 
real world - notably of "direct effects" on people - have 
led to much pessimism on the possibility of arriving at 
any definite conclusions. Does violence in the media 
lead to imitation, delinquency, crime, or any anti-social 
behaviour? Does it have any effect at all? Does it. far 
from inciting, on the contrary provide an outlet for 
violent tendencies instead of anti-social actions in real 
life, thereby providing a service to society? The first is 
the incitement theory, the second the "no-effect" theory, 
and the third the catharsis theory. It should be noted, 
however, that the catharsis theory usually rests on 
ignorance of its context and seldom, if ever, can be 
applied to the ephemeral forms of contemporary mass 
media fiction. Aristotle in his Poetics was writing of 
Greek tragedy in one of the great classic periods of 
drama that has survived to this day. It was a drama that 
may have been capable of Katharsis. that is a purgation 
of viewers through the emotions of pity and fear. The 
medium was the stage, closelv connected with the 
audience, the theme was quasi-religious, well known, 
consensual, and deeply uniting, and the language was 
poetry of the highest order. Hie Bionic Woman or 
Official Detective can hardly compare with Oedipus Rex. 

The feeling of futility on this question of effects was 
early expressed by Bernard Berelson when he wrote 

Some kinds of communication on some kinds of issues, 
brought to the attention of some kinds of people under some 
kinds of conditions, have some kinds of effects.-' 

To that could be added "in some kinds of wavs." For it 


can be said that Violence 1 is not Violence 2 is not 
Violence 3. A serious treatment of the increase or 
decrease of crime with case histories or, say, of the 
nature of sadism in society cannot compare with the 
sensationalist tabloid treatment that revels in the 
details, or invents them, in a sick way. 

News violence may be similar to but is not the same 
as drama violence. We must avoid the kind of generali- 
zations that semanticist Alfred Korzbyski spoke of 
when he said that even Apple 1 is not the same as 
Apple 2.^ 

Philosophically this raises another question about 
criteria. If we are to decide what is "bad violence" or 
"good violence", and to evaluate on a scale between 
Violence 1.2,3 et cetera we need a higher or ultimate 
criterion. A measurement stick cannot measure itself. 
John Stuart Mill encountered the problem of criteria 
and the ultimate criterion but did not deal with it. 
Happiness or pleasure for the greatest number was to be 
the highest good. But then when he said there were 
different "kinds" of happiness, a new criterion was 
called for. Not all happiness was good. Some was better 
than others. How then - by what measuring rod - do 
you say it is "better"? For Mill it was an informed, intel- 
lectual, reflective kind of happiness above the level of 
the sensual, momentary pleasures. Similarly, the need 
for a higher criterion to distinguish violence as it is 
handled by one magazine over another is needed. If the 
recent war in Angola is the subject of an article in 
Reader's Digest and in This Magazine, and both are 
discussing war violence, why would one qualify as 
praiseworthy or non-violent and the other as an 
instrument of violence? Why indeed did Reader's Digest 
support the war in Vietnam? 

There is so much propaganda, so much lying from 
right, left, and centre, so many economic and political 
interests that it is extremely difficult for the layman to 
determine the truth of any politico-economic situation, 
especially when it is not a familiar one. But there have 
been precedents, records of interested parties covering 
up their real motives as in the "non-intervention" policy 
of the Spanish civil war immediately before World War 
II, which showed that people were hoodwinked by 
terminology. One kind of violence was avoided: direct 
state participation by the Western powers which meant 
no help for the status quo forces, the constitutional 
government of Spain, and indirect additional help for 
the rebel fascist forces of General Franco who was 
being directly assisted by Hitler and Mussolini. 
Obviously when all attempts at negotiation failed 
violence was needed to maintain a peaceful, democratic 
state (as might well be necessary today in the case of 
South Africa). This might have led to increased 
bloodshed, but such direct confrontation with the 
dictators at that time might well have prevented World 
War II. 

Similarly, during the Vietnam War, the words 
"Capitulation" and "Munich Pact" were used 

frequently, taken out of context from the ignominy that 
was the Munich Agreement: Chamberlain's "peace in 
our time" pact with Hitler. Transferring this 
phraseology to the Vietnam War, it was said that if the 
U.S. capitulated to the "Communists" by withdrawing 
support for the Saigon Government it would be a capit- 
ulation like Chamberlain's. People were unable to see 
that the two situations - two violent wars, one civil in 
the case of Spain, and one an American invasion of 
Vietnam - were two fantastically different violences. 
The National Liberation Front and the North Vietnam 
forces could not be compared with Nazi Germany 
which had become so powerful as an industrial war 
machine as to threaten the entire world and was notjust 
defending its home territory. The real similarity was 
that of U.S. aggression and Nazi German aggression. 
But such is the befuddling process of language, of 
semantics in the service of vicious propaganda. 

The ultimate criteria suggested here for decisions 
about real violence and media violence would be 
humanistic, in which life forces would be seen to predo- 
minate over those of death in determining the 
"goodness" or "badness" of violence and in various 
degrees. Life forces would include the ideals of free 
humanity: both the freedoms "from" of the Atlantic 
Charter during World War II and "freedoms for" 
developed since then: equality, civil liberties, opportu- 
nity, and the human-dignity rights of the United 
Nations Human Rights Commission. 

The criterion derives from humanism. It is well 
expressed by Erich Fromm in his The Anatomy of 
Human Destructiveness where he compares "biophilia" 
with "necrophilia": 

Biophilia is the passionate love of life and of all that is alive; it 
is the wish to further growth, whether in a person, a plant, an 
idea or a social group. The biophilious person prefers to 
construct rather than to retain. He wants to be more rather 
than to have more. He is capable of wondering, and he prefers 
to see something new rather than to find confirmation of the 
old. He loves the adventure of living rather than certainty. He 
sees the whole rather than only the parts, structure rather than 
summations. He wants to mold, and to influence by love, 
reason and example; not by force, by cutting things apart, by 
the bureaucratic manner of administering people as if they 
were things. Because he enjoys life and all its manifestations he 
is not a passionate consumer of newly packed "excitement."* 

The "good" of biophilic people is all that serves life; evil 
is all that serves death. But Fromm recognizes that 
people and situations are both, though one or the other 

Like life itself, though not like death, this is 
enormously complicated when it comes to deciding 
what serves life or the media surrogates of life and what 
serves death. There are necrophilious magazines, for 
example Midnight, in the physical sense, and Time 
under Luce in the socio-politico-economic sense of 
journalism for "the haters, the racists, those in favor of 
war, bloodshed, and destruction . . . cohorts for a dicta- 
torial leader."^ 


The decision on the presence of violence in these and 
other pubHcations would not be difficult. The next task 
is to discover the kind, degree, and intensity of the 
violence and then to ascertain what they are doing to 
people and society. Some certainly should be abolished 
or placed in clinics for addicts, to be handed out with 
information on mental diseases or deviant behaviour. 
New ways of studying effects must be found and old 
inhibitory methods must be changed. Too many young 
social scientists have been forced to follow the path of 
behavioural science and end up as clerks counting 
things, incidences of occurrences, without insight or 
creative depth. As David Riesman expressed it: 

Work in the field of communications is inviting at the moment 
because of its very ambiguity and lack of structure. It is a 
somewhat transient waystation where people can meet who 
don't quite want to commit themselves to the field of literature 
(as monopolized by English Departments) or to the social 
sciences (as monopolized by departments of sociology or 
political science) - and, as Mr. Berelson indicates, there is also 
room for people with an interest in economics and aesthetics 
... in Leo Lowenthal's famous essay in which he traced the 
shift from heroes of production to heroes of consumption in 
just two popular magazines what was necessary was not an 
elaborate project but a good idea and a library.* 

To which Lewis Dexter added: 

Riesman fears that "too sophisticated and inbred an emphasis 
upon methodology and research technology . . . will lead us to 
be afraid of taking the risks of creativity ... the apparatus of 
negative criticism becomes a potent weapon for demolishing 
imaginative and exciting ideas ... at a certain point men learn 
how not to do things.'^ 


Chapter Six 

Three Ways in which Violence is Present in Magazines 

The synthetic violence in magazine covers occurs in 
three ways: 

1. It is in one or more episodes, articles, or fiction 
stories according to the Commission's definition and 
this paper's criteria for identifying media violence. 
Questions then arise on frequency. How many 
episodes? Is it a policy? Is this typical or an isolated 
case? How is the violence depicted? Is it in a way that 
seems to have "meaning" or is it "meaningless" violence 
"for its own sake" (to attract readers of some kinds)? Is 
it "sensational" in that it attempts to exaggerate or to 
add elements or arrange them in such a way as to make 
the synthetic more shocking or disturbing for most 
readers than experiencing the real? Is it, therefore, false 
to reality? Even though it is fiction, does it employ 
melodrama and sentimentality that do violence to 
normal experience? If there are overt episodes of 
violence, does the violence parallel or approach the 
nature of violence in real life in reference to human 
motivations, feelings, suffering, relationship to society, 
guilt, rewards, solutions, justice, vis-a-vis death, cruelty, 
crime, alienation, et cetera? 

Every depiction of violence is not to be condemned 
per se and certainly not a priori. 

2. All words and pictures in magazines are persuasive. 
No matter how "objective" writers, editors, illustrators 
may perceive their work as being, they are invariably 
subjective through selection of material, placement, 
selections within material, word usage, layout, emphasis 
or lack of emphasis (playing "up" or playing "down"), 
and their opposite sides: omissions, et cetera. Infor- 
mation is ideology. But we must point out that some 
magazines are more overtly persuasive than others of 
the covert persuasion mentioned above. Normally these 
use the writer's byline (name) and the viewpoints 
expressed in the article are out in the open for all to see. 
Thus, we have to judge magazines of" hidden 
persuasion," to use Vance Packard's phrase, and 
magazines of manifest persuasion. There are, of course, 
magazines with both overt and covert expression. In the 
latter, the question of propaganda is more at issue. 

It is argued below that much violence is done in 
this way. 

3. The third way consists, not of discrete parts of the 
magazine but of the whole thrust of the magazine. The 
entire issue is designed according to a pattern, an 
ideology, a goal. This is very obvious in the small 
magazines of hate literature, occupational, sales, 
political magazines, "house organs" of companies, 
industrial magazines with their public relations aims, et 
cetera. But it was not always so obvious in magazines 
such as the falsely named "newsmagazine" called Time, 
and less for the magazine of carefully selected right- 
wing, Middle American, and drug-sale articles called 
Reader's Digest. While the visible part is variety, the 
entire contents really serve toward a propagandistic end 
defined by DeWitt Wallace 53 years ago. To use a 
favourite McLuhan image, they are like the juicy bone 
carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the 


Chapter Seven 

Summary of Criteria for Identifying and 
Classifying Media Violence 

(These 12 criteria are an expansion of the Commission's 
five-point general definition of media violence 
published in the Interim Report of January, 1976. They 
are applied to some magazine content for issues 
published in the first half of 1976 and to their past 
performance in some cases. Reference to evidence of, 
say Violence 3 in a magazine, therefore refers to crime 
counselling or incitement as set forth herein.) 

1. Warmongering. Condoning, counselling, inciting or 
portraying in the way of glory, of "winning" a war. or of 
massacring, war as an instrument of national policy for 
gain, inciting aggressive behaviour or engendering 
military attitudes that may lead to physical war, with 
the exceptions noted on the following pages. 

2. Torture. Condoning, counselling, inciting, ignoring 
for serious analysis or portraying in a sadistic or 
meaningless way, in words or pictures, the use of torture 
as an ofllicial policy, e.g. for social control by the state, 
police, et cetera, and as acts of an interpersonal, non- 
consenting kind as in crime or historic accounts. The 
latter would include the Gestapo-type torture portrayed 
in some male magazines, with savage whippings; the 
former would include the obscene government cruelty 
to prisoners of the Pinochet junta in Chile, and some 30 
other states where torture is a policy. But it would not 
include the consenting adult behaviour of deviant 
adults as portrayed in Spanking, Caning, and Bondage 
magazines which is a kind of fetish sickness of 
Violence 7. 

3. Crime, Social Control. Condoning, counselling 
crime . . . portraying in a favourable light or revelling in 
gruesome , sadistic, or obscene aspects of crime; killing, 
manslaughter, maiming, wounding, mutilation, cruelty, 
kidnapping, imprisonment, rape, molestation, mob 
action, destructiveness, besetting and other criminal- 
code oflTences. including crimes committed by law- 
enforcement ofl[icers. 

4. Vengeance-seeking. Condoning, counselling, 
inciting, portraying in a favourable light vengeance as 
an acceptable motive, solution, e.g. as a model for 
prison, as justifiable action against persons or aggre- 
gates. Vengeance on a big-power political level was at 
work in challenging the Treaty of Versailles and used to 

arouse a whole nation to war. The Treaty itself was a 
form of Vengeance in turn or, at least, a case of humilia- 
tion, "doing violence to." 

5. Aggression. Condoning, counselling, inciting, 
distorting, ignoring for serious analysis or portraying in 
a sadistic and meaningless way aggression or predator 
conduct of an interpersonal or group nature as in a 
teen-age gang, a human hunting expedition, team 
violence as in hockey stories, articles that idealize 
aggressive tactics. 

6. Authoritarianism. Counselling inciting, portraying, 
et cetera. There is an injunction to remain unemotional 
at all times, especially towards another person as in 
selling techniques; to social Darwinism in which 
"survival of the fittest" is said to apply to modem 
economic competition, business practices, and even 
social relations; there is intimidation, incitement to mob 
or vigilante action. Magazines such as National Review 
have long been this way. 

7. Dehumanizing. Word or picture symbols that tend 
to dehumanize, often through depicting, foreshortening 
one part, e.g. sex organs, skin pigmentation (black, red. 
brown, "yellow," white) over another in a psychic 
grotesquerie. The dehumanizing process employed in 
many media is physical and psychological violence that 
can lead the reader out of the magazine and into real 
violence under certain conditions, as we have observed, 
insofar as the human receives inhuman treatment as in 
rape (often portrayed as being funny or in a macho 
"cave-man" way) and humiliation of other sorts. Many 
magazines are guilty of this reductionism in which the 
female is reduced to her sexual organs; an intercourse 

Stereotyping, hate-mongering. race generalizations 
apply here. e.g. the word "Paki" to apply to a stereotype 
of any foreign-born emigrant to Canada; other stereo- 
types such as those of "all" unemployed, "all" criminals 
as bad; "all" social scientists as favouring one policy. 

Brainwashing and conditioning under certain circum- 
stances apply here. (Difi'erentiating conditioning of the 
Skinnerian type and socialization or acculturation of 
the young has to be made.) 

"Crowding" is part of dehumanizing. As experiments 


with animals have shown, mental illness and anti-social 
behaviour can result from crowding, and in the world of 
tomorrow this could be a social crime for real estate 
development, builders, landlords. Media accommo- 
dation to developers who overcrowd neighbourhoods, 
denying people space outside and crowding many in 
high-rise or other inside space arrangements, must be 
rated as a form of condoning violence. 

8. Sensationalizing. Violent language and pictures for 
non-violent situations. (Point 2 in the Commission's 
definition of media violence, page 2, Interim Report, 
January 1976.) This may be termed sensationalism 
which can be defined in everyday use as going beyond 
the real situation for the sake of effect - that is visceral 
or sensory effect, a jolting or autonomic nerve reaction. 
"Energy" is pumped into the portrayal, the words or 
images; excitement, drama, conflict are used to sharpen 
up the story. It is overplayed. 

9. Revelling, wallowing, glorifying. Violent language 
and/or pictures for violent situations in real life. 
Normally, a magazine could not be faulted for 
portraying violence "as it is" in real life as an accurate 
or truth-seeking correspondence occurs between symbol 
and reality. There is or seems to be verisimilitude; yet 
all symbols are abstractions and magazines may revel or 
wallow in the violent aspects, emphasizing them unduly. 
It is this revelling that constitutes Violence 9. 

10. Euphemism, underplaying. - as a form of doing 
violence to a situation. Using soft language, apologetics, 
for violence that needs to be stated if reform is to take 
place. Censoring any mention of violence to downplay 
it as a quarantine action for those who are not to be 
troubled is another form of latent violence. 

11. Static violence. Violence in which the immovable 
object is met by the irresistible force. This may be insti- 
tutional violence in which an entrenched force will not 
permit reform. There is a blocking of change, elite 
control, privilege. 

12. "Doing Violence to". This is to principles, beliefs, 
identity, truth-value through deliberate distortion, 
misinformation, falsification, libelling, rumour-mon- 
gering, profanation, the tyranny of the majority over 
minority rights. 

It can be seen from the above that "media violence" 
in magazines does not occur under these conditions: (1) 
It is not "of the media" themselves, that is not artifically 
induced or manufactured except in the case of fiction 
for which some of these criteria would apply, e.g. 
revelling, sensationalizing, dehumanizing. (2) It is, in the 
case of articles and shorter prose forms, close to reality 
or the quality called verisimilitude: very similar to what 
actually happened or to the situation that existed. Here 
the whole question of bias and subjectivity enters into 
the equation. (3) In commentary on violence that it is 
serious, analytical, well-informed, and intellectually 
honest, with reality and truth as the goal rather than a 
vested or sectarian interest or personal aggrandizement. 


Chapter Eight 

Detailed Discussion of Criteria 

1. War-making, warmongering (sabre rattling in print), 
warlike editorial policy. Counselling policies for the 
purpose of war, but not including wartime propaganda. 
The "communications situation" must include as 
context condoning of war as an instrument of settling 
disputes; inflammatory language that may incite 
aggressive attitudes or action; ordinary language that 
deliberately falsifies information. Yet there will be 
"Clear and present danger" contexts in which prepa- 
ration for a "defensive war" is justified (unless you are a 
pacifist and believe this is never the case, not even a U.N. 
war, say, against oppression). The undeclared war 
against South Vietnam falls in the aggression category, 
and the secret invasion of Cambodia by U.S. forces is a 
compounding of aggression. On the other hand, if 
warlike language were used to prepare for a feared 
assault on national territory this could not be 
considered warmongering. "Suit the action to the word, 
the word to the action," Hamlet told the players, but 
here of course it has to be defined in highly complex 
international terms. The punishment must fit the crime 
injudicial terms; in political and here in semantic- 
hnguistic terms, the "weapon word" may be necessary 
or justified when the crime of war is committed. At the 
same time, threatening and inflammatory language, 
distorted information, and other propaganda techniques 
may be held guilty of warmongering. The "war cry" 
should not become "cry wolf as in the Cold War, 
which was or is a camouflage for nationalistic or 
exploitive ambitions. And finally the entire situation is 
vastly complicated by the legitimacy of the power 
structure in the status quo or the insurgency of guerrilla 

Is martial music justified in peace time? Are martial 
words, or even-tempered but carefully crafted lago 
words that can lead to violence - are these justified? 
Aside from the judgment as to their justification we can 
at least identify their use in magazines as a first step. 

2. Torture. This would include the use of torture in 
whatever context, for here, there can be no justification 
whatsoever, neither in wartime nor in peacetime, in 
personal crime or in statecraft, whether of the hideous 
Moors torture-murders of three children, of police 

methods as in the "genital clamp" case in the recent 
investigation of Toronto police methods, or torture as 
an instrument of national policy as investigated by 
Amnesty International. 

3. Crime violence. As in summary. 

4. Vengeance violence. As in summary. 

5. Aggression. As in summary. 

6. Authoritarianism. As in summary. 

7. Words or pictures that tend to dehumanize and 
mechanize. This is media violence that can lead to real 
violence. The essence of Marshall McLuhan's work 
concerns dehumanization, although the very opposite 
seems to be the case for those who view his comments 
on technology as being dehumanizmg. At the end of the 
television film This is Marshall McLuhan (nbc), he said, 
"There is no inevitability as long as there is a 
willingness to think." 

"The unperson is the inevitable result of improved 
communication," he said in Take Today: The Executive 
as Dropout. Barriers of private consciousness are 
overcome for collective awareness, a tribal dream. Tlie 
message of The Mechanical Bride , The Gutenberg 
Galaxy, and Understanding Media is that "specialism" is 

But the price we pay for special technological tools, whether 
the wheel or the alphabet or radio, is that these massive exten- 
sions of sense consititute "closed systems." Our private senses 
are not closed systems, but are endlessly translated into each 
other in that experience which we call consciousness. Our 
extended senses, tools, technologies, are incapable of interplay 
or collective awareness.' 

However, that does not include television which is part 
of the electric age in McLuhan's words, and demands of 
the senses that they become collectively conscious 
because of high-speed transmission. While television is 
said to have returned this wholeness, print separates 
man from man by virtue of the private book and 
emphasizes one sense over another. Reading replaces an 
ear with an eye. does away with all auditory and 
sensuous complexity found in oral communication. 
Thus it tends to dismember the individual psychologi- 
cally, i.e. to be psvchologicallv \-iolent. "Sensory ratios" 
are altered in that the eve takes in the information and 


moves in a linear way along the lines of print, setting up 
a sensory "bias" as the compartmentalization of 
knowledge takes place in the mind as on the page. 
The "violence" that is done to the person in this 
specialism - like a sort of "amputation" of the legs when 
you emphasize use of the medium of the motor-car over 
walking - is pertinent to this study. It was brought out 
in more graphic detail by McLuhan in his first book. 
The Mechanical Bride, for there he wrote, "Thus, for 
example, the legs "on a pedestal" presented by the 
Gotham Hosiery Company are one facet of our 
"replaceable parts" cultural dynamics. In a specialist 
world it is natural that we should select some single part 
of the body for attention. Al Capp expressed this ironi- 
cally when he had Li'l Abner fall desperately in love 
with the pictorial scrap of a woman's knee, saying 
"Why not? Some boys fall in love with the expression 
on a gafs face. Ab is a knee man!" In this way, the 
specialist world is akin to fetishism, i.e. the worship of 
an object, idolatry, whether for sexual gratification or 
religious mysticism. 

8. Sensationalism. Violent language and pictures for 
non-violent situations. This may be called 
"sensationalism" which can be defined in everyday use 
as going beyond the real situation for the sake of 
"eff'ect" - that is a visceral eff'ect of reaction. Energy is 
pumped in; excitement, drama, conflict "beef up" the 
story. It is "overplayed." 

9. Revelling, wallowing in, glorifying. Violent 
language and pictures for violent situations. It could be 
verisimilitude. Hockey is not a Sunday School picnic 
(unless picnics are getting rough these days too). 

Still, despite the accuracy, the correspondence 
between symbol and reality, there may be a sense of 
"revelling" in the violence and of an abstraction process 
in which it is presented as necessary, colourful violence 
with nobody really suff'ering. Not really verisimilitude at 
all because of this abstraction and therefore by concen- 
trating on part of the action - the slamming against the 
boards or the bullet through the shoulder at the moment 
of impact - you never get pain or sufl^ering, and never 
see a shot through the groin or one that rips out the 
face. It is antiseptic. (The foregoing sentence is not 
sensational because it is in an analytical framework and 
describes what actually happens.) 

As for pictures, they may lie. It is the same 
abstracting process in which the moment of impact 
alone is captured for the news film or the still photo. 
There are no shots of the player in the hospital room (or 
the morgue) afterwards. In short, the meaning is 

10. Euphemism, underplaying, deceptively soft 
language for violent situations. Is it possible that 
"underplaying" a situation or event could be called 
violence? "Euphemism" is taken from the Greek 
euphemizein, "to use an auspicious word for an inauspi- 
cious or evil one, of good sound or omen." Yet, ironi- 
cally enough, euphemism has come to have a bad 

meaning: the substitution of soft words or phrases, 
mildness, or an indirect expression for more accurate 
ones that might be unpleasant or offensive. 

Here we have a language paradox in which mild 
words that indeed may turn away wrath have been used 
for purposes of escapism and for concealment of a truth 
that should be told and perhaps told in a way that is 
more "accurate" or at least closer to the human reaction 
level, to revulsion or horror. 

The Vietnam War offered such euphemisms as "body 
count" (not nearly as grim as words such as "the 
number of dead people"), "incursion" for invasion of 
Cambodia; "pacification", et cetera. 

When John F. Kennedy, the U.S. President was 
searching for a term that would mean the same thing as 
"blockade" but not have the same automatic conse- 
quences on public opinion when used officially in 
connection with blocking the Russian ships 
approaching Cuba, he concocted the word 
"quarantine." Such political euphemism diff"ers very 
greatly from personal uses (e.g. in such phrases as 
"premarital relations" for sexual intercourse before 
marriage) in that they dangerously hide the truth, while 
the personal uses are innocuous. In escaping reality, the 
political words may pave the way to violence in the 
same way that any discovery of lying, however 
ambiguous, may lead to rage as it did in the Watergate 

In this way, euphemisms may do the work of violent 
words. Underplaying is the violence that is suppression. 

In the political sphere, a good example of euphemism 
or "downplaying" a violent event occurs when a 
magazine, or any medium, depicts that event or 
comments on it in such mild tones as to cause a 
semantic reaction of outrage, anger, dismay and 
perhaps fear. This would have occurred if, when World 
War II broke out, the newspapers had headlined on 
Page One the story of a bank robbery in their city and 
placed in small type a heading on page 20, "War breaks 
out." Naturally, our sense of values would be disturbed 
- to use a mild word. 

Actual examples of this occur every day, of course, 
but not in such well-defined situations where virtually 
everybody's sense of values is in accord. Time magazine 
has long been guilty of "playing down" ideological 
opponents and "playing up" favoured people, institu- 
tions, and events to suit its militant arch-conservative 
politics. A classic Timese case of playing down was on 
Nazi Germany's occupation of the Rhineland: 
"Germany has been naughty but is not be be spanked."^ 

Two sides of the same coin are evident here. Support 
for violent military behaviour through false "reportage" 
which treats the "naughty" act as a child's prank, thus 
setting up a parallel .so grossly out of line with the event 
depicted that the language cannot be called represent- 
ative of reality. In short, violence may be inherent or 
latent in a seemingly non-violent use of language out of 


context. I.ippmann referred to it as a "pseudo- 
environment" of words that are far from the real world. 

1 1. The Immovable Object, met by the Irresistible 
Force. This kind of violence is based on a truism that 
change is inevitable, however slow and imperceptible. 
As the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus. expressed it, 
"You cannot step in the same river twice". If this is so, 
violence can occur when there is no yielding on the 
status quo because the entrenched parties refuse to allow 
new entrants or new ideas into the field and block their 
aspirations and expectations by simply doing nothing. 
Doing Nothing in the face of life's dynamism is 
therefore defined here as Violence. It can be the greatest 
invisible violence of all simply because, being invisible, 
vested, and entrenched, it is all the more provocative to 
those who have a right to a share of power or succes- 
sion. Thus it can be said, for example, that in relation to 
international affairs, the Portuguese dictator Salazar 
and his successor were following the Do Nothing Policy 
as an Immovable Object while forward-moving political 
parties, who had the right to expect that any European 
country should follow a more egalitarian pattern, were 
ready to effect political and economic change. The 
death of Salazar opened the flood-gates of pent-up 
frustrations and so the tide of humanity moved forward 
in Portugal and into the colonies where it had extended 
even into the traditionally conservative military class. 

Often the Immovable Object is an individual or an 
institution or a society and therefore is looked upon as 
peaceful. It is law-abiding and why should it not be, 
insofar as it makes the laws? On the other hand, the 
Irrestible Force seeking change is regarded as violent or 
highly aggressive because people have, rightly, been 
conditioned to respect the law. But the Object simply 
stays put, being in a kind of fortress, refusing to 
negotiate or to meet with the opposing force, blocking 
all human progress and maintaing the status quo, while 
millions of people are in dire need of change. 

The overt violence that occurs in the interest of 
necessary change is always visible and it is this violence 
that gets the symbolic attention, headlines, and 
television coverage, while the violence of the unyielding 
object remains invisible. This often happens in a strike, 
as the strikers picket while the owners remain unknown. 
They represent Institutional Violence from the top. 

12. "Doing Violence to" principles. Words, pictures 
that profane in the widest sense of that word, e.g. that 
prostitute a deity for private gam, doing violence to the 
highest qualify of man. In The New Organum Francis 
Bacon wrote of these Idols that have beset men's minds: 
Idols of the Tribe, of the Cave, of the Market Place, and 
of the Theatre.^ The last-named may do violence to the 
mind insofar as it includes the superstition of astrology 
and of "things to be somehow similar" or, in other 
words, images such as we get in mass media. 
"Blasphemy" enters into the picture when media lead 
people to follow "false gods" and especially when, in 
the words of Erich Fromm, "God himself has become 

one of the idols in fact even the highest Idol who gives 
his blessing to the others." He asks: "Is there as much 
difference as we think between the Aztec human 
sacrifices to their gods and the modern human sacrifices 
in war to the idols of nationalism?" This, again, is a part 
of the dehumanizing process, as idolatry is submission 
that arises from alienation and is not compatible with 
freedom. Man has transferred his own living powers 
into things outside him, Fromm says, which "he is 
forced to worship in order to retain a modicum of self 
and ... to keep his sense of identity."'' 


With No. I Violence as war in the sense of media 
warmongering and No. 12 as "Doing Violence to" there 
would seem to be a rough approximation here of a 
descending scale, but it is impossible to quantify or to 
qualify "violences" in any exact way. For example, nine 
types of violence are identified for Reader's Digest while 
1 1 are shown for Official Detective. The Digest may be 
seen as representing in its media way the authoritarian 
policies of a power elite. It may directly or indirectly 
support aggressive war or war-making attitudes and 
policies that can result in the deaths of thousands as in 
Vietnam or even millions, if not human extinction, in 
the event of a third world war. The sordid "detective" 
magazine, on the other hand, deals with small-scale 
violence, as heinous as it is in terms of murder, rape, 
cruelty, et cetera. Who then is the more necrophilious? 
Size - extent - the whole human situation must be taken 
into account. 


Chapter Nine 

The Reader's Digest 

Generally, we think oi Reader's Digest as a magazine of 
sweetness and light, mom's apple pie, unforgettable 
(and unbelievable) people with hearts of gold, the 
American Way as model for the world, medical 
miracles and human feats of perseverance, courage, and 
faith. God is also very big in the pages of the Digest. A 
Montreal freelance writer who sold frequently to the 
Digest tells how a story entitled "I Was a Spy for the 
FBI" did not sell until it was changed to "I Was a Spy for 
the FBI and Found God." It illustrates how the cueing or 
triggering of interest is carried out. In this case the cue is 
God. Get God in there and it will sell to the Digest 
audience. He has long been a Deus ex Machina in 
Digest drama. If the miracle cures don't cure there is 
always the Almighty to fall back on and at least psycho- 
logical needs may be served. The Digest formula has 
been summed up as "Oh the wonder of it, oh the glory 
of it, oh!" 

Certainly, this part of the formula is not unpalatable, 
although deception, exaggeration, or dangerous 
escapism may occur; false hopes may be raised. But 
some praise can be expressed for its long anti-smoking 
and car-accident campaigns; though Nader-type 
criticism of car manufacture was not a theme. Robert 
Cirino in Dont Blame the People notes, too, that the 
Digest was "alone in the middle sixties in crusading 
against the vast sums of money being spent to send a 
man to the moon."' 

Yet the dark other side of the Digest lies nowhere 
near these ideals of plain folk, Horatio Alger and Little 
Orphan Annie. Here Horatio Alger becomes Daddy 
Warbucks. the multinational hero with Punjab, the 
giant, at his side symbolic of power. Little business 
expands to become Big Business and finally global 
business, a colossus: an industrial power buttressed by 
the state, bureaucratic and impersonal, which bears no 
resemblance to the lowly model of individualism often 
used. Annie is self-reliant, considerate of others; multi- 
nationals move about the world scene taking advantage 
of every subvention, tariff, accelerated depreciation, tax 
law, and write-off that they can, regardless of social 
effect. The homey side oi Reader's Digest has long been 
a camouflage of the sturdy little Annie type, masking 

the comic strip's philosophy which supports the giant 
corporation, Warbucks, against social enterprise, and 
U.S. capital investment abroad against indigenous 
effort. Punjab - the military - is always at hand, as was 
well-documented in the overthrow and murder of 
Allende with cia help. Here is violence which Digest 
propaganda legitimates. 

Clipping articles originally generated and published 
by other editors was, interestingly enough, a kind of 
parasitic activity that two ambitious sons of 
Presbyterian ministers lighted on at the same time: 
Henry Luce, the co-founder of Time, and DeWitt 
Wallace, the co-founder with his wife of Reader's Digest. 
While scissors and paste have long been symbols of the 
journalistic trade, they were made into a virtue and a 
science: Luce scissored his way through newspapers 
and Wallace through magazines. In both cases, the 
publishers had the same idea and found a need. People 
in the United States and other nations entering the 
advanced industrial stage had become too busy to read. 
Movement of the eyes along lines of type was becoming 
tedious, as McLuhan was later to point out, and the 
machine-like demand for instant satisfactions, for 
speed, had shown itself. Wallace offered to extract and 
cut down a selection of what he termed "articles of 
lasting interest" and serve them up in a neat pocket- 
sized package, even as Luce offered to scan the world's 
news of the week and package it in one magazine. The 
excommunication that had occurred in the urbanized 
industrial society was to be overcome by a digestive 
tablet and a Time capsule for the mind. Paradoxically, 
the Digest, long a symbol of convention, was first 
produced in bohemian Greenwich Village, at No. 1 
Minetta Lane. In February, 1922, Wallace and his wife, 
Lila Bell Ache.son, published a 62-page issue of 1,500 
copies as Vol. I, No. I. 

The Digest moved out of its grubby Greenwich 
Village office (actually a basement under a speakeasy) 
in one year to modest quarters in Pleasantville, 40 miles 
north of New York. By 1930 the circulation was 216.000 
and the Digest was grossing $600,000. In 1939 it moved 
into a $1,500,000 building of its own at Chappaqua, 
near Pleasantville. Yet it had a staff of amateurs until 


the mid-Thirties, with two of the top editors being 
former clergymen and one a former missionary.' 

Today, the Digest has a paid nu)nthly circuhition 
greater than the population of Canada. 28 million 
copies, and its audited world "readership" circulation at 
close to 3 people perusing each copy, is greater than the 
population of the United Kingdom or France or West 
Germany. On any theory of the homogenizing effects of 
a mass medium, the statistic is ominous. As Walter 
Lippmann put it, "When we all think alike, no one 
thinks very much." 

Early in its career Reader's Digest promoted a school 
program, and many schools, even colleges, including 
Canadian, included it in their curricula as naive 
teachers and administrators had not realized it had 
editorial biases. They actually believed then and still 
believe that the Digest presents a cross-section of 
comment and a spectrum of articles from many publica- 
tions with varying viewpoints. It was thought that 
Wallace and his editors selected articles of "lasting 
interest" on a Matthew Arnoldian basis: the best that 
has been thought and said in the world. Obviously, they 
had not thought through the implications of Digest 
ideology, disguised as it was as "no ideology" - 

However, it was the third of Wallace's criteria for 
establishing the Digest that really undermined what 
might have been a unique open-minded magazine of 
educational benefit: "constructiveness." Wrapped up in 
the innocent-sounding, cheerful word was not just a 
Pollyanna world, but Wallace's conception of what is 
"good" and what is "bad" in the world and in man. 
Such distinctions leading to Digest selections were, of 
course, U.S. culture-bound and conditioned by Wallace's 
past, his experiences, perceptions, conceptions, educa- 
tion, meanings, attitudes, expectations, and, in general, 
cognitions. The Digest rejected anything conceived as 
"radical" or defeatist or pessimistic in favour of 
optimism and "good works" no matter how hollow the 
"constructive" view. 

More specific ingredients of the Digest formula were 
"dogmatism, optimism, and simplism," wrote John 

Moreover, Wallace found the "constructive" formula 
very lucrative. Readers were not only like Pollyanna but 
like the listeners to Erasmus's Folly. They liked the 
escapist world-view that emanated pleasantly from 
Pleasantville where old-fashioned virtue, like hard work, 
is always well rewarded. In Digest pages, seldom was 
heard a discouraging word and indeed the skies were 
not cloudy all day. People would pay for these unreal- 
ities and read the articles as they read fiction. 

The readers' self-deceptions no doubt accorded with 
Wallace's deceptive faqade but they could not accord 
with the deception of the "reprint myth." This consisted 
of Digest editors writing or assigning articles in the 
Digest offices and then giving them free to other 
magazines or paying for them to be published in these 

magazines. When the articles appeared in print, the 
Digest " selected" them for publication m the Digest, a 
practice known as "planting." Again, Digest readers 
were tricked into believing that constructive-minded 
editors of the Digest had looked through magazines 
objectively and chosen what was good. 
As Robert Cirino has observed: 

The Digest claims that this is what it is doing acting as a 
representative digest of the tens of thousands of articles 
published monthly in the nation's magazines. On close exami- 
nation this claim turns out to be grossly misleading. George 
Bennett, a statistician, classified all Digest articles and found 
that there are three kinds. One is a genuine report of an article 
first appearing in some other magazine. Another type used is 
the "plant" an article written by or for the Digest, but 
planted in another magazine first so that when it later appears 
in the Digest it looks like a genuine reprint. These articles are 
often given free to smaller magazines such as the American 
Legion Magazine, the Kiwanis, Rotarian or others like them. 
This is a method of extending Digest influence even beyond its 
own readers to include the readership of about sixty other 
magazines which accept plants. The third type of article is a 
Reader's Digest original - one that is written solely for or by 
the Digest and printed nowhere else. Bennett found that from 
1939 to 1945 genuine reprints accounted for only 42 per cent of 
Digest articles while Digest originals or plants accounted for 58 
per cent.'' 

Since 1945 the Digest has become more and more fond 
of its own articles, and as a result more of the articles in 
the 1960s were Digest originals or plants, and fewer 
were genuine reprints. 

An early objection came from The New Yorker. In 
cancelling its contracts with Digest, it told its readers in 
a letter that: "If the Digest wanted to become a 
magazine of original content, then it should have done 
so directly; it should not have operated through other 
media to maintain the "reprint myth." The New Yorker 
ran Bainbridge's diatribe on the Digest and its critic 
Dixon Wecter later reviewed Bainbridge's book on the 
subject. While he did not review it favourably, Wecter 
made one comment that is instructive in terms of 
violence. "... it does do violence to the magazine's 
original aim and title." Yet he thought the deception 
was "chiefly the business of the parties concerned," 
indicating a buyer-beware policy of the media, as 
though no violence had been done to principle or to 
society as a whole. "^ 

To its credit, the Digest financed itself on subscrip- 
tions and news-stands sales alone for 33 years and was 
without advertising until 1955. From 1929 until 1955. it 
conceived of itself partly as a "Consumer Reports" by 
evaluating widely distributed products: toothpastes, 
waxes, detergents, and cigarettes. Notably, it 
campaigned strongly against smoking - a far cry from 
the more recent tie-in of Digest articles with pharma- 
ceutical companies. In 1967. the medical articles were 
shown to have a deceptive side. The November issue 
carried an eight-page detachable Special Advertising 
Section with several articles in the regular types and 
formats of Digest articles. It promoted brand names 


and pricing policies of prescription drugs and was 
actually an advertisement by the Pharmaceutical 
Manufacturers Association of Washington, D.C. the 
first of four in a $1 million series. The only indication 
that it was not a Digest article, but a paid ad, was a 
three-word notice on the first page and a phrase in small 
print at the bottom of the last page: "First in a Series 
Published as a Public Service by the Pharmaceutical 
Manufacturers Association, Washington, D.C. 20005." 
The three words were missing from the million reprints 
sent to doctors' waiting rooms, hospital reading rooms, 
and members of the general public who wrote in. 

The general counsel of the United States Post Office 
wrote to the Digest to say that the disguised, or at least 
not very clearly indicated advertisement was 
"inconsistent with the spirit and intent" of laws 
governing publications with second-class mailing privi- 
leges. He cited a section of the U.S. Code on "Marking 
of Paid Reading Matter" that called for "plainly 
marking it as advertising," but said the law was too 
weak at that time to enforce. Gaylord Nelson, chairman 
of the Select Senate Committee on Small Business 
called it "calculated deception" and accused the drug 
industry of trying to appear as a non-industry philan- 
thropic group. He cited a report from the Food and 
Drug Administration saying that the articles were 

This in our view comes under the heading of "Doing 
Violence to" and here it is the violence to principle, of 
truth, of trust, and of objectivity in the code of 
journalism which requires separation of editorial from 
advertising matter. The consequences could be drastic. 
Readers could be harmed in taking drugs that seemed 
to have been scrutinized by their favourite and trusted 
magazine in a non-commercial context if they hadn't 
read the very fine print. Real violence - death - might 

In addition to Violence to Principles that can become 
harmful as in the case of drugs, there is the more serious 
Violence of chauvinism, authoritarianism, cold-war 
politics, corporatism, multinationalism, and anti- 
humanitarianism. Cirino states that from 1950 through 
1969, the Digest presented 84 articles on Vietnam, of 
which 81 supported the U.S. policy in Vietnam while 
three were neutral. Not one article criticized U.S. policy 
on the war, although "many congressmen, senators and 
retired generals had written many dissenting articles 
which appeared in various magazines." This 81 -article 
crusade for the most violent war in history was capped 
in December 1969, by a Digest editorial backing the war 
and an article by the hawkish writer Joseph Alsop titled 
"The Vietcong is Losing Its Grip." Reader's Digest 
editors wrote 18 of the 84 articles, and of the Digest's 
favourite stable of writers on the topic, Alsop was used 
three times, Hanson Baldwin six times, and Richard 
Nixon three times beginning with his 1964 article 
"Needed in Vietnam: The Will to Win."^ 

There were these anti-social "isms" of the Reader's 

Digest in the decade from 1950 to 1959 according to 
Cirino's study: 

Corporatism and multinationalism: 99 articles 
favouring U.S. foreign policy and corporate activity in 
Latin America, compared with only two unfavourable 
and ten neutral. The Digest sided with investor-owned 
electric power companies against customer-owned 
companies with nine articles in all. In these issues there 
were full-page advertisements from the investor-owned 
companies at $55,000 per page. Annually, private power 
pays the Digest a quarter of a million dollars in ads. 

There were many articles on auto accidents and 
safety, but not one in a survey between 1940 and 1959 
mentioning car design as a factor, and in the Sixties on 
seat belts no mention of corporate opposition was 

Cold-war politicism: Not one article pointed out the 
danger to democracy posed by the military-industrial 
complex as Eisenhower described it in 1960 in his 
farewell address. 

Corporatism: In addition to selecting favourable 
articles there has been, in the reprinting of somewhat 
more balanced articles, the removal of critical parts that 
criticized establishment leaders and their corporations. 
A March 1965 reprint of an Esquire article on American 
gasoline omitted the sections exposing deceptive adver- 
tising gimmicks. On pollution, the Digest in the 
December 1963 issue attacked Rachel Carson's Silent 
Spring by reprinting a "hatchet job" from Time 
magazine. Titles of many articles favouring big business 
interests speak for themselves: "United Fruit's Interna- 
tional Partners," "Banks That Built New Business," 
"Home Sweet Electric Home." 

Anti-humanitarianism: While the Digest opposed 
smoking and had the courage to deal with syphilis 
before other magazines of general circulation, it 
published only one article on hunger in America from 
1945 through 1969 and this not until November 1958. 
On prison conditions, the Digest said that conditions 
were deplorable but good men were in charge and 
something significant was being done. 

Anti-unionism: The Digest mythologizes "the hard 
working man" but when he wants to cut into corporate 
profits in getting a fairer share through a union, it is 
against him. Reo Christenson found that between 1952- 
1965, the Digest had 49 articles critical of the labour 
movement, five neutral and eight favourable. Earlier, 
Bainbridge found that 13 articles were unfavourable to 
labour unions and 3 favourable.** 

Posture on fascism: The Digest opposed Roosevelt in 
his eff'orts to bring about a coalition of the United 
Nations in World War II and, like Time magazine, it 
supported Franco, against the Loyalist government of 

Has the Digest changed? A look at the June 1976 
issue shows that it is now published in 30 countries and 
13 languages, is still doing business at the same old 
stand. The one change in the Canadian edition is the 


use of more articles reprinted from Canadian magazines 
or written by Canadian writers, a policy it introduced 
when it faced loss of tax privileges in Canada. The 
Digest escaped Bill C-58's requirements for 80 per cent 
content difference from any foreign publication and 75 
per cent Canadian ownership that must be met if adver- 
tisers are to deduct their costs from taxes. It was 
decreed that as a Digest it was unlike other magazines. 
It has put 75 per cent of ownership in a Foundation. In 
June 1976, it carried 28 articles and a book condensa- 
tion. Of these 29 pieces, 14 were from U.S. authors or 
sources, ten from Canadian sources, and five from other 
countries. This was an increase in Canadian sources 
from near zero a few years ago to approximately one- 
third of the entire material or 41 per cent of the North 
American material. A remarkable advance. 

The Digest content in October, 1974, had included 24 
articles and one book of which the U.S. accounted for 
13 articles and Canada slightly fewer than half that at 
six articles while another six came from other countries. 
From this one-quarter of total content near the height 
of the campaign to tax the Digest like all other U.S. 
magazines, the ratio of Canadian to non-Canadian 
material has climbed considerably. Canadian writers 
and Canadian magazine or book publishers have 
benefited financially as the Digest pays both on the 
basis of pages used in reprinting, thus partly amelio- 
rating a situation where the Canadian public bought 
1,500,000 copies of the Digest each month as part of a 
massive world consumption of 28 million buyers plus a 
possible double or triple that number of readers, while 
Canadian writers, artists, and editorial talent were 
virtually denied access to the magazine. 

The articles, no matter what their origin, are carefully 
selected on a right-wing pattern, with few exceptions, as 
we have seen, or articles that can be classified as largely 
human and animal interest, humour, nature's wonders, 
adventure, and salvation through God or drugs. 
Canadian writers are mostly confined to these latter 
categories, although sometimes political aspects creep in. 

In the June 1976, issue the lead-off~ article, taken from 
Saturday Night of September 1975, "Are We Too Soft 
on Criminals?" by Barbara Amiel, is Digest policy all 
the way - surprising for a magazine such as Saturday 
Night - but readers may not be aware of these aspects: 
(1) That a digested article telescopes ideas, eliminates 
qualifications, and oversimplifies. It should not be 
confused with the original, although it can be close and 
was fairly close in this case, (2) That the digester can use 
words and phrases of his own in a so-called paraphrase, 
and (3) Saturday Night is a classic liberal magazine that 
presents various viewpoints on the basis that "truth will 
out" as intelligent people compare and judge for 
themselves. Reader's Digest, on the contrary, is a 
magazine that has an axe to grind and grinds primarily 
that one axe. A counter-article in Saturday Night on 
prison reform, e.g. "Are We Too Harsh on Criminals?" 
would probably not be digested. You as a Digest reader 

are therefore considered to be an "easily persuasible" 
type. Experiments have shown that "presentation of 
'both sides' was more effective in converting the highly 
educated, but that one-sidedness was more effective in 
converting the poorly educated" and those "favouring 
the advocated view, i.e. as a technique of 
reinforcement.'' The message that Ms. Amiel, in digested 
form, puts out amounts to an impression rather than a 
discussion. It says: Criminals get such light sentences 
that they sneer at the law and even in court organize 
their next crime with their sneering buddies. The long- 
term sentences of years ago might deter them today, but 
"platoons" of social scientists (her original term) have 
formulated new methods to rehabilitate Johnny. But 
common sense says that criminals simply gamble that 
crime will pay. 

In its anti-intellectual tirade, the article says that 
judges and juries listen to social scientists who are 
trying to reform and rehabilitate criminals. Judges heed 
their "preachings" (Digest word, not author's) which 
fail, so the scientists blame not human nature but 
imprisonment. (Author Amiel in the original article says 
"The fault lies in the nature of our institutions and 
possibly in the nature of man," and then follows with a 
whopping generalization that puts all social scientists 
together, "but almost certainly in the nature of social 
scientists who seem committed to the belief that all 
crime has environmental causes." Considering the long 
debate in academe on "nature versus nurture" and 
shades in between plus newer ones on genetic and 
body-chemistry causes, this is untenable. In fact, no 
social scientists' views are examined in the article. An 
unattributed "recent study" at Guelph is cited, and 
"New York studies" with a passing reference to two 
criminologists.) Now the prison system is blamed by the 
scientists who have a new social science scheme called 
"diversion" that aims at emptying the prisons or 
keeping people out of prison, e.g. working in a 
community project to work off a sentence, and here the 
chief culprits are the Law Reform Commission and 
Solicitor General Warren Allmand, who has "an almost 
mystical" belief in the social sciences. He perceives 
most criminals as suffering from a lack of love early in 
life and "simply cannot believe that criminals are other 
than sick." Thus the writer in the Digest version is 
represented as believing that they are born bad, and 
that violence is inherent in humans, despite her citing of 
other causes in the original, one of which virtually 
negated the article as cant. This is a theory as much as 
any social science theory, but one that has given way 
over many years of experience and observation to one 
that nurture not nature is responsible, or that it is a bit 
of both; and that is only the beginning, as the question 
arises as to what aspects of both and in what way. 
Allmand's belief is not "almost mystical," as .Amiel 
says, but very commonplace thoughtful people. 

Rehabilitation fails, the author says, and statistics 
show it. Former minimum-security inmates are said to 


be the heaviest crime repeaters. Her next theory is "that 
people will act, to some extent, according to how they 
believe society views their actions, and so a light 
sentence means the offence is small!" "Many 
Canadians" favour heavier sentences, but advocates of 
lighter sentences would have us believe leniency aids in 
rehabilitation and that criminals are "a breed apart." In 
fact, she says, criminals are like the rest of us who weigh 
the risks and consequences of their actions. Thus "these 
people" (the criminals, a breed apart?) could be 
effectively deterred by raising the penalties involved in 
crime. When crime goes without real punishment 
citizens turn to vigilante justice, i.e. become criminals 
through frustration. Finally, whether punishment deters 
or rehabilitates, it is necessary for justice. The 
protection of society is the all-important need. 
Individuals must be held responsible for what they do; 
without individual responsibility there is chaos and we 
end up denying all of individual freedom. 

And so having digested the Digest article from four 
and a half pages to two with all the perils of 
"condensing" anything, we can see the 50-year-old 
formula of the Digest propaganda that reinforces 

1. The "Plain Folks" appeal, ego-gratification, reassu- 
rance of worth. You may not bother your head about 
complex social problems but be reassured (hold that 
head high) that your "common sense" is greater than all 
the preachy social scientists. (As McLuhan often quotes 
of the little girl, "The world is so big, stay as you are.") 
This, we know, is a comforting thought as your old 
solutions can be trotted out and you can feel as knowl- 
edgeable as anyone who has spent years of personal or 
formal educational toil on such problems. It is instant 
education we are offering you, painless enlightenment. 

2. The Appeal to "a sense of roots." Old things, old 
ways are better than untried new ways. It becomes an 
appeal to people with some little stake in society, a job 
or some property that they fantasize losing if criminals 
are not permanently put away. Often they confuse 
criminals with radicals. The status quo rules. The misfit, 
the unfortunate, the social outcast, the dissenter, the 
poor, and the experimenting person, are a threat to this 
smug majority. 

3. Such other techniques as "glittering generality," 
"card-stacking," "scapegoating," "stereotyping," and all 
manner of appeals to prejudice, fear, insecurity, class, 
hatreds, sloth, trust, even old-time religion (original sin) 
are evident, as are sexual repression, revenge, and non- 
conformity. The violent philosophy is "an eye for an 
eye" rather than "judge not lest ye be judged" or "love 
they neighbour" or the more modern aphorism, "there, 
but for the grace of God, go I.""' 

As Jacques Ellul has pointed out, modern propa- 
ganda often consists of the "half-truth" which could be 
called the "half-lie" just as well. It is "integration 
propaganda" in that it maintains the status quo. It starts 
where the audience is - with its fears and hopes as in 

motivational research techniques cited above for selling 
goods. In Ellul's words again, such propaganda 
techniques are "a menace which threatens the total 
personality." It is Vertical Propaganda insofar as it 
comes from the top down, being one-way advice by the 
publisher, and his organization. There can be no 
dialogue because, in McLuhan's words, "When 
dialogue begins, propaganda ends." Propaganda it must 
be, as Reader's Digest , a pseudo-populist mass 
magazine, is a class magazine. It represents the interests 
of, not the millions of devotees who have been 
influenced by it, but the elite political-economic forces 
in the United States who want to maintain their 
hegemony in society and extend it multinationally. 
Their job is to legitimate that power in a subtle socio- 
logical way which they do, as we have observed, by 
handing people back their hang-ups. The majority had 
been too conditioned to seek change." 

One violence-vending article, however, does not make 
a case. The other drugs in that June 1976 issue include 
"Angola's Made in Moscow War" by David Reed, 
"Cuba's New Militance" from Tlie New York Times, 
and "The Modern Little Red Hen" from Nation's 
Business. The first two articles are the sort of major 
policy pieces that the Digest has long embedded in its 
candied contents. They are "Made in usa articles," of 
the kind that express State Department and Pentagon 
foreign policy as well as that of the industrial complex. 

In the Angola article, an unidentified writer named 
David Reed says that the Popular Movement for the 
Liberation of Angola (mpla) which has now formed the 
government of this former Portuguese colony, is backed 
by only a quarter of the population compared to the 
three-quarters support for the two other parties. Russian 
and Cuban intervention made mpla powerful. The 
whole evolution is seen as the Russians having "carried 
out a bold military and political move into another 
continent," while the U.S. "had no client army that 
could be put into the field to counter the Cubans. Nor 
was there time to train the non-Marxist forces in the use 
of advanced American weapons."'^ Digest readers are 
told that the most powerful military machine in the 
history of the world, having just tried out the most 
ruthless weapons ever invented, and having had a half- 
million troops in Vietnam, could not "counter" little 
Cuba. They are not told how the real reason was public 
opinion against a new foreign adventure like the U.S. 
involvement in Vietnam and the revelations of the 
Pentagon Papers and Watergate. 

As Prof. John Saul has pointed out in This Magazine 
(April-May 1976), such monstrous oversimplification 
stems from "the reduction of the full complexity of the 
situation there to some mere manifestation of 'great 
power politics' " and the "twenty years of 
political and military struggle are consigned to limbo 
. . . reduced to some mere manipulation from Moscow 
. . ." And so on to analyze events there in significant 
terms, the battle for Southern Africa, involving the 


racist state of South Africa itself. Canada's role is an 
important aspect, something that was not found in this 
Digest article which, like so many world affairs articles 
in the Digest's past, sweeps Canadian policy and 
opinion under the rug or assumes and subsumes it 
under U.S. policy. The key word in Saul's article is 
"reduction," and Digest readers are constantly treated 
as unintelligent without memories of even recent 
newspaper reading. Their reading of world affairs gives 
them a sense of serious thought even though the most 
complex situations, involving all Africa, the world, 
rivalry in Communist nations, history, politics, and 
economics are reduced to slogans, fitted into old 
images, and reduced to pablum. 

"Cuba's New Militance" as condensed from the New 
York Timesman, James Reston, also lines up on the 
U.S. policy line. The Times a la Reader's Digest is 
alarmed at Cuba's intervention in Angola and "reports" 
of "contacts with black revolutionary elements 
elsewhere". It tells how nice the U.S. has been to Cuba 
lately by "allowing the foreign subsidiaries of U.S. 
companies to sell automobiles, trucks, spare parts and 
other essential commodities to Havana."'^ The ethno- 
and ego-centricity of that line is mind-boggling as it 
means the U.S. will allow Canada to sell to Cuba. But 
Castro churlishly has not responded to overtures for 
"normalization" of U.S.-Cuban relations. Reston warns 
that the Cuban "adventure" in Angola "may finally be 
waking Americans up." 

It is, of course, a companion piece to the main 
Angola article and a threat to wreak vengeance on 
Cuba for having dared to do what the U.S. has done 
around the world, but for exploitative commercial 
reasons, and a warning not to counter U.S. ambitions in 
the Western Hemisphere. 

The oracular message of the Titans themselves is to 
be found in an article, "The Modern Little Red Hen," 
which is transmitted from Mount Olympus itself: The 
Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. Its publication 
Nation's Business carries the thunderbolts.''' 

The story is familiar. When the little red hen asks for 
help the duck says, "out of my classification", the cow 
says, "I'll lose my seniority," and the goose says, "I'll 
lose my unemployment compensation." Their 
comments on baking the bread are changed to "That 
would be overtime," "I'd lose my welfare benefits," 
"I'm a dropout and never learned how," and "If I'm to 
be the only helper, that's discrimination." 

When the bread was displayed, "They all wanted 
some - in fact demanded a share," but the hen said she 
would eat the five loaves herself. "Excess profits," 
"Capitalist leech," and "I demand equal rights," they 
said, painting "unfair" picket signs and marching 
around shouting "obscenities" until the government 
came around and said to the hen, "You must not be 
greedy." When the hen objected that she alone had 
earned the bread the agent said, "That is the wonderful 
free enterprise system. Anyone in the barnyard can earn 

as much as he wants. But, under government regula- 
tions, the productive workers must divide their product 
with the idle." So they lived happily ever after, "but the 
little red hen's neighbours wondered why she never 
baked bread again." 
In other words: 

1. Anyone on welfare is simply lazy. (That would 
include deserted mothers, the sick, the disabled, those 
laid off by industry, et cetera. But it would not include 
corporations who receive handouts from goverment, 
write-offs, accelerated depreciation, expenses, contracts, 
et cetera. 

2. Workers lie around doing nothing while some 
single individual entrepreneur or several do the work. 
The immense labour force that produces the staggenng 
productivity of the modern industrial nation is not in 
the equation. 

3. Concerns by workers and unions for job classifica- 
tions, years of working up to seniority positions, loss of 
unemployment insurance because of state limitations on 
extra income, payment for overtime work, education, 
and non-discrimination are mere excuses not to work, 
and workers should throw themselves into any enter- 
prise without question. 

4. The productive workers now come into the picture 
and must divide their products with the "idle." Anyone 
out of work for any reason is still stigmatized as "idle" 
and should apparently starve. 

5. The government forces business and labour to 
share some of their income with idlers but they will all 
refuse to work again, i.e. go on strike. 

Interestingly enough, a Digest blurb on the article 
says, "No one really knows who wrote this updated 
version of the well-known fable. But it has been widely 
reprinted and even read at shareholders meetings." 
Ingenuous. Nothing was said about shareholders not 
lifting a finger to help the little red hen. 

The above articles are embedded among the more 
exciting features of Reader's Digest : natural disaster, 
adventure stories, unforgettable characters (that month 
Charlotte Whitton), royalty, God and Malcolm 
Muggeridge. humour, Eskimos, the wonders of 
technology (Xerox), nature's beauties (butterflies), 
instant strength (Karate), instant success, relived war 
("The Voice of the Veteran"), self-expression, the 
golden land of "private enterprise" (i.e. corporation), 
and above all the fast-fast medical cure. The latter 
staple is still with us, this time a new heart stimulant, 
with the appropriate magic-word name dobutamine. 
given to a "lucky farmer" of Ohio, who is called lucky 
despite the admission that the drug treatment in the 
clinical trials were at that point "being evaluated by the 
U.S. Food and Drug Administration" and the statement 
"if approved the drug will be a weapon against 
congestive heart failure," but adding in tiny type as a 
footnote: "Dobutamine is not yet on the market in 
Canada." The reference to Canada would not have 
appeared a few years before and what was good for 


Food and Drug in the U.S. was good enough for 
Canada, even it turned out to be toxic. But by 1975 the 
Digest was thoroughly alarmed at the prospect of losing 
tax privileges and so in March it blatantly repeated the 
53-year-old claim that "It presents a monthly digest of 
the best articles available - chosen from Canadian and 
international sources for their universality of interest 
and enduring nature."'^ It cited a Canadian Facts survey 
of November 1974, that showed how 65 per cent of 
those Digest subscribers polled had disagreed with the 
proposition that the Digest was "harmful because it 
promotes a foreign culture and viewpoint." Only 13 per 
cent agreed somewhat or strongly disagreed. No 
opinion was voiced by 22 per cent. As these were 
subscribers, not the general public, it can be said that 
the survey preached to the committed or to a highly 
biased sample, the result of which may be read in 
various ways. One way is that the loaded sample simply 
revealed the effective brainwashing that occurs as a 
result of constantly reading the Digest. Those 22 per 
cent were numb. But even more alarming was the 
finding, which was interestingly enough, conducted by 
"Canadian Facts and by the Digest's own market 
researchers," that 94.5 per cent of its readers said the 
Digest "was serving the Canadian purpose." But in fact, 
it is violent at many levels and serves no one well. 
Marshall McLuhan in The Mechanical Bride saw it as 
"Pollyanna Digest" getting "its meaning from the 
joyless intensity of commerce" with "the endless use of 
the Barnum and Ripley technique": that results in harm 
through "the sheer presence of successful stupidity 
which commonly blocks and clutters the minds of those 
who might conceivably prefer something better" . . . 
who have unwittingly been sold a strait jacket.'^ 

It could be argued that the Digest is a freak show for 
the curious and the gullible. It is little wonder that it 
could publish from its Montreal office, in 1975, The 
Reader's Digest Book of Strange Stories and Amazing 
Fads, which places next on some library shelves to The 
Guinness Book of Records. 

There is titillation of the human mind in this melange 
of the strange and wonderful, watched over by God and 
Dr. Strangelove with the mushroom cloud and 
doomsday not far off. As Muggeridge tells us, "It is 
difficult to resist the conclusion that Western man, 
wearied of the struggle, has decided to abolish 
himself"''' It is the Apocalypse that Reader's Digest 
people seek for an evil world, a Judgment Day in which 
they as good people will enter a heaven far more 
soporific than even the pages of the Digest. 

Violence thus is seen as the ultimate solution, first 
with signs of disaster in this ungodly sphere. Thus, on 
Page 30, we have "Hawaii's fire-and-brimstone 
wonderland" which pretends to be merely touristic, but 
suggests the holocaust in terms of the Kilauea volcano 
of awesome proportions, "as tough in graphic illus- 
tration of some cosmic moral lesson, heaven and hell 

have been placed side by side." (Emphasis added.) 
Dante could do no better. 

The sheer thought of this hell on earth is delightful for 
the word-smith: 

a rumbling, steaming volcanic wasteland surrounded by 
tranquil fern forests ... In 1969 the pressure-charged gases and 
molten rock underlying Kilauea burst out of a rift on its 
eastern slope, and three months later its fiery lava fountains 
were soaring up to a height of 1800 feet. Two and a half years 
later, Kilauea was still spewing and spouting, filling the flame- 
red sky with rolhng thunder and showering the mountainside 
with thousands of tons of glowing pumice . . . The explosion of 
Krakatoa between Java and Sumatra in 1883, for example, set 
off a tidal wave that drowned 36,000 people. And the eruption 
of Mt. Pelee in Martinique in 1902 sent a great fireball of toxic 
gases racing down the mountainside, killing 30,000 in just over 
a minute."* 

If that has not quite fascinated the annihilation-seeking 
readers, they can turn to Guatemala's 39-second 
Apocalypse which tells us purringly how 

the paroxysm ended with nearly 23,000 people crushed to 
death beneath the rubble of their houses; 76,000 more injured. 
A million people - one sixth of the nation - homeless . . . some 
220,000 dwellings collapsed into splintered timbers and dust 
. . . the worst natural disaster in Central American history." 

One can't escape the feeling that by worst is meant 
"best". Best for writing, by providing readers with their 
thrills and vicarious death-wish details to horrify. 
Moreover, if there is a Dantesque hell on earth there 
must be God and the saints to counteract these Satanic 
actions. The author, Scott Seegers, a Latin American 
reporter, provides them under the heading "Ninety 
Screaming Infants" insofar as: 

Miracles there were . . . Guided by the terrified chorus of infant 
screams, the night watchman . . . burrowed under the roof 
There his flashlight beam disclosed an unbelievable sight. The 
cribs were tilted and bent, but their steel corner posts held the 
enormous weight of the roof With the assistance of a nurse, he 
crawled under the roof and was able to bring each infant out 

Earlier he told how an ornate headed-glass coffin 
containing a life-size figure of the crucified Christ was 
not even cracked, although 600 had died, the living had 
lost their homes, and nearly every town in the province 
was destroyed. However, "the faithful knelt in prayer 
... A miracle they murmured."^" 

It is all there for the western world's largest audience, 
attractively wrapped up: mom's apple pie, Angola, 
volcanoes, Armageddon, ailing hearts, karate chops, 
marriage counsellors. Prince Charles, Xerox, and the 
Little Red Hen. 

Violence of the following kinds has been identified 
for the reasons stated, summarized herewith: 

1. Warmongering. Survey by Cirino, 1950 through 
1969, as cited, showing 84 articles published on Vietnam 
of which 81 supported the war and three were neutral. 
This 81 -article advocacy for the most violent war in 
history was capped in December, 1969, by a Digest 


editorial backing the war and an article by Joseph 
Alsop, "The Vietcong is Losing Its Grip." This was not 
a defensive war for which our criterion for warmon- 
gering violence makes exception. The mongering of 
Richard Nixon in three articles is only part of the 
persuasion picture, which includes depiction of the war 
as being won and as worth winning as in a game, or as 
an honest lion-hearted struggle. The Pentagon Papers 
were to show the simplistic Good Guys versus Bad 
Gusy scenario of this Digest version, and the mendacity 
of the propaganda. 

4. Vengeance-seeking. "Portraying in a favourable 
light vengeance as an acceptable motive, solution, e.g. 
as a model for a prison." This is identified in the 
Barbara Amiel article referred to earlier in which heavy 
prison sentences are favoured and rehabilitation is 
derided, also vigilante justice (i.e. revenge is alluded to 
as a possible alternative for prison punishment). 
Articles on natural disasters (e.g. June 6) potray a God- 
directed world of vengeance. Muggeridge calls them a 
"cosmic moral lesson." 

5. Aggression. Condoning, counselling, inciting, 
distorting, ignoring for serious analysis or portraying in 
a sadistic and meaningless way aggression or predator 
conduct of an interpersonal or group nature. 

In addition to the condoning of aggression in 
Vietnam, as cited, the Digest has condoned aggressive 
action in Latin American countries such as Guatemala, 
Cuba, Brazil, and Chile, often in an indirect way in 
approving a military junta. This is not to mention 
another species of aggression: an aggressive sales 
campaign involving drug ads in which reprints were 
offered to doctor's offices and the material was not 
marked advertising. 

6. Authoritarianism. "There is an injunction ... to 
social Darwinism in which 'survival of the fittest' is said 
to apply to modern economic competition, business 
practices, and even social relations; there is intimida- 
tion, incitement to mob or vigilante action." Praise for 
the Spanish dictator. General Franco, was cited as an 
example, along with Digest support of McCarthyism. 

7. Dehumanizing. Word or picture symbols that tend 
to dehumanize, often through depicting by way of 
foreshortening one part or one aspect of a person, e.g. 
skin colour, sex . . . reductionism. "The Modern Little 
Red Hen" referred to above is an illustration. It repre- 
sents the old fable of the little red hen as Private Enter- 
prise itself- small and independent - when in fact we 
know this is as simplistic as the corner grocery store in 
these days of the supermarket or the old "filling station" 
long forced out of business as an independent operator 
by the big oil companies. The workers symbolized in the 
cow, duck, pig, and goose are portrayed as lazy, careful 
about their rights, and interested only in the proceeds; 
the government is shown as the regulating agency that 
forces productive workers to share their product with 
the idle. We know that corporations more often cau<^. 
idleness with layolTs. (Idleness is not sought by the 

million unemployed in Canada; multmational corpora- 
tions can close down a Canadian branch plant and open 
it elsewhere.) 

There are so many false parallels in the old fable, it 
represents reductionism by analogy to an alarming 
degree, doing violence to a fine myth of interpersonal 
moral quality. That this article should be read at 
shareholders' meetings, as the Digest boasts, is to 
dehumanize symbolically the hundreds of thousands of 
people who are suffering from unemployment caused by 
the very people who are able to make their money work 
for them. 

8. Sensationalizing. "Going beyond the real situations 
for the sake of effect - that is visceral or sensory effect. 
Overplaying." This is brought out in the June 1976 issue 
where the Digest described "miracles" to sensationalize 
the Deity with crude anthropomorphic fail-safe acts. 
e.g. Guatemala's 39-second Apocalypse wherein "nearly 
23,000 people lay crushed to death . . . 76,000 more were 
injured ... a million were homeless" and yet "miracles 
there were" when 90 infants in a Lion's Club hospital 
were saved. 

So-called "miracle cures" by "wonder drugs" in other 
issues are of the same sensational order. 

9. Revelling, wallowing, glorifying. This criterion 
applies to the Digest's glorification of war as mentioned. 

10. Euphemism, underplaying. . . . using soft language, 
apologetic for violence that needs to be stated if reform 
is to take place. The omission of criticism of advertising 
techniques in a Digest Esquire article is an example, 
underplaying the accomplishments of Franklin 
Roosevelt is another, and the apologetics represented in 
such pieces as "United Fruit's International Partners." 

11. Static Violence. "This violence in which an 
immovable object is met by an irresistible force . . . 
entrenched force . . . blocking change, elite control, 
privilege." This was seen in the Digest anti-New-Deal 
policy, its opposition to Rachel Carson's Sileni Spring at 
the beginning of the pollution-conscious era, its prepon- 
derance of articles opposing amelioration of human 
conditions through Welfare, Medicare, and labour legis- 
lation such as job security ("The Modern Little Red 
Hen," June 6, 1976). 

12. "Doing Violence to." This criterion for doing 
violence to principles, beliefs, identity, truth-value, 
through deliberate distortion, misinformation, falsifica- 
tion, rumour-mongering. profanation, the tyranny of 
the majority over the minority is found in the Digest's 
"planting" of articles to give a false appearance of 
selection as described, its "card-stacking" of articles on 
one side of an issue and its virtual ignoring of the liberal 
and left point of view even when expressed by 
congressmen and other opinion leaders. 


Chapter Ten 


One of the saddening aspects of the long campaign to 
remove the tax privileges of Time magazine in Canada 
was that it centred almost solely on the advertising 
issue. That, of course, and regrettably, is a life-and- 
death issue for all mainline commercial magazines and 
therefore highly important for the survival and the 
creation of Canadian magazines. Since Bill C-58 was 
enacted and Time discontinued its Canadian edition 
(four to eight pages), the circulation has dropped from 
half a million to about 330,000 according to a Globe and 
Mail report on August 4, 1976. Subscription rates were 
raised from $18 to $30 a year. Its revenue was down by 
50 per cent compared to the same month a year before, 
although Time had reduced advertising rates by 60 
per cent. 

Time was not banished from Canada, as some 
editorial writers said in complete confusion. It is still 
available in this country in its original form at the rates 
mentioned, but those who advertise in this American 
magazine cannot claim their expenditures as a tax 
deduction. In this way, it is placed on the same footing 
as any other U.S. magazine, such as its rival Newsweek. 
What it had before was a distinct privilege that only 
Time and Reader's Digest enjoyed, after much lobbying 
and political intrigue doing violence to Canadian sover- 
eignty. The five or so Canadian pages, glorified as a 
"Canadian edition," were withdrawn by Time 
magazine, which refused to meet the higher require- 
ments of Bill C-58 for Canadian ownership and 
Canadian content if the designation "Canadian 
magazine" was to be genuine. But the magazine 
continues to be sold in Canada and to draw revenue in 

Another very practical reason for removal of the 
special privileges of Time was the unfair competition it 
offered Canadian magazines. Whereas Canadian 
magazines had to pay for their editorial material, for 
every word and picture in the entire issue. Time in 
Canada simply took over the contents of Time in the 
United States for which it paid a bookkeeping figure of 
50 cents per subscription and added a few pages of 
Canadian material. This was cheap content and a 
practice known in economics as "dumping." It has also 

been called "gravy" insofar as the main editorial costs, 
having been covered and paid for by the U.S. buyers, 
then yielded additional revenue from Canada. Adver- 
tising aimed at the Canadian market was sold on the 
basis of this facade of Canadianism, the four pages and 
the dumped foreign section. "Time Canada" was the 
largest of Time Inc.'s operations in 185 countries. It had 
a circulation of 550,000 compared with Time Pacific's 
335,000, and made $1.2 million profit in 1973.' Laws 
against dumping of various kinds of goods have been 
enacted in various countries, as their existence as 
manufacturing nations is at stake. Tariffs are often anti- 
dumping measures. With a huge market ten times the 
size of the Canadian market, U.S. manufacturers of 
every type of commodity could flood the Canadian 
market with goods and put many industries out of 
business, as they could not compete at the prices 

Ironically, it is only the economics of the situation 
that was considered in the campaign against Time and 
Reader's Digest, and were it not for the complexity of 
fiscal policy and international trade any Canadian 
reader might benefit from receiving editorial material 
free from another country. In fact, all dumping, like a 
shower of cheap gifts, would be beneficial. The one 
catch, even under a radically revised economic system, 
would be the quality of the product, and the quality of 
Time as a weekly purveyor of news was and is abysmal. 
To begin with it is not a "news" magazine in the 
accepted use of the "news," but a magazine of 
comment. This is not comment in the ordinary sense of 
commentary as found in other magazines insofar as it 
has been disguised as news "the way it is," while the 
crisp dogmatic style of presentation has been loaded 
with a half-hidden dimension of language. As Swanberg 
stated it in his Luce and His Empire: 

Various combinations of these adjectives and verbs could be 
used to give an attractive or unlovely coloration and supply the 
reader with extra drama or amusement. A trim-figured, 
keen-hrained po\\\\c\an who strode in and unfolded h\?, policies 
had no complaint against Time. But a. fiahhv -chinned, 
^imlet-eved candidate who shambled and snarled was apt to lose 
votes. [Emphasis in original.]^ 


The emphasis in words alone might make or break a 
man, and they had no relation to the reahty of the man 
or the event; they were ideological and the choice of 
words dependent on whether the man was a good guy 
or a bad guy in Time's jaundiced view. Such words gave 
the reader a favourable or unfavourable impression of 
the subject very subtly and so deceived. Mussolini, 
Hitler, and Franco were all given favourable treatment 
until near the outbreak of World War I!. 

Readers - and the readers of Time are fairly high up 
the educational ladder - are deceived by it all and come 
to believe they are getting an informed view of the 
world, in fact an "inside" view. Yet Time''?, publisher, 
Henry Luce, who died in 1967, never told them that 
Time was "objective" or "unbiased." On the contrary, 
he disclaimed it occasionally in small type at the front 
of the magazine and has been quoted as saying "Show 
me a man who claims he's objective and I'll show you a 
man with illusions."-^ 

Having deceived so many, however. Luce no doubt 
deceived himself. The more intelligent reporters and 
editors know that "objectivity" is impossible, but the 
good ones strive to present a balanced, fair, and honest 
report within the capabilities of the situation. These 
include personal predispositions, cultural bias, haste, 
availability of information, publishers' and editors' 
wishes, and the whole "gatekeeping" or processing 
system of the media. Luce and the editors he brought 
into line never tried for balance, fairness, or 
independence of mind. They knowingly and deliber- 
ately distorted the news, selecting the "facts" to fit a 
preconceived formula, a practice known in journalism 
as "slanting the news." Time became a gospel according 
to St. Luce, a magazine of missionary zeal for the people 
who pay for the advertising. Big Business, with all its 
creed. As an obituary from The New York Times and 
Associated Press said, "He was a staunch Republican, a 
defender of big business and free enterprise, a foe of 
organized labour, a steadfast supporter of Chiang Kai- 
shek and an advocate of aggressive opposition to 

But, of course, these are biases that any publisher 
might have, and most do. Our concern is with the 
violence in the man as reflected in Time, the magazine 
he dominated for 44 years. This is not to mention his 
other magazines. Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated, all 
of which had a world-wide circulation at his death of 14 
million. The personal domination of talented people, 
the methods of "twisting" (distorting) and shaping 
information, of "editorializing" while pretending to 
present "the facts" and of falsifying for the sake of 
propagating an anti-humanistic ideology in violation of 
the highest principles of free speech - these are what 
"distinguished" Luce and his publications empire. A 
study of them and of the man contribute to any study of 
media manipulations and their effects on people and on 
society. This is the value of the study, but for Canadians 
it has the added value of showing the way in which 

Canadians believed a Sam Slick and lost part of their 

Theodore Peterson in his Magazines in the Twentieth 
Century referred to the founders of magazines following 
World War I as being "missionaries" and "merchants." 
He rated Henr) Robinson Luce as a missionary prima- 
rily, but of course Luce was both a hard-headed 
business man and a ruthless missionary in prmt. His 
birth in Tengchow, China, in 1898 to Presbyterian 
missionary parents with a father of fundamentalist bent, 
whose work in China depended on wealthy American 
patrons, set the mold for young Henry Robinson. TTie 
ethnocentricity of Protestantizing the heathen, the 
isolation of being in a foreign country but living in a 
white man's compound, the Boxer rebellion of 1900 and 
its failure to free China from Western business domina- 
tion, and then Luce's education at Hotchkiss College 
and Yale University with charity from a kindly church 
patron - all these influences spelled dogmatism and 
intellectual astigmatism for Luce all his life. It was as 
though he never emerged from that compound. 

Time first appeared in March 1923 as the product of 
two young partners. Luce and Briton Hadden, a college 
friend, who died six years later. They had collected 
$86,000 in capital, not exactly a "shoe-string," as the 
folklore of Time has it. By 1930 the company was 
grossing more than $3,000,000 a year in advertising. 
Later came other magazines, Tide, which was sold. 
Fortune in 1930 as a posh business-executive publica- 
tion, /I at/? /Vec/Mra/Fonw? in 1932, then in 1937 Life 
magazine, and finally Sports Illustrated '\n 1954. All were 
phenomenal financial successes. Innovation and imagi- 
nation were evident in the creation of these new forms 
of popular culture. Life, with its big spreads of dazzling 
photography from around the world such as no 
magazine had ever displayed before, took the public by 
storm. People lined up to buy a copy and were often 
unable to get one as subscriptions had to be filled first. 
The novelty of the picture magazine was like the advent 
of television a decade later. 

Fortune arrived as a thick, lavish business magazine 
on the best of paper with highly-textured covers and 
illustrations and in a large format, costing SI a copy, 
despite the onset of the Depression. Luce and his 
friends allowed that the Depression might last a whole 
year. Even Architectural Forum, covering a specialized 
field, was expensively produced. Time Inc. was 

Opposition to Time in Canada surfaced in the 
Twenties and Thirties, although the presence of foreign 
periodicals in Canada has been an issue since Confeder- 
ation. Speaking in Parliament on the issue in 1931. 
Mackenzie King fatuously warned that "if U.S. 
magazines were taxed in Canada there might be a 
cutback in tourist trade, since Americans might 
experience difficulty in obtaining home magazines."-'' 
But the Conservative government imposed a duty based 
on the degree of advertising content. One writer has 


observed that "by 1935 the circulation of American 
magazines in Canada decreased by 62 per cent while 
Canadian magazine circulation increased by 64 per 
cent."^ The tax was revoked by the King government 
when it resumed power in 1935 and the import of U.S. 
magazines increased. 

In the Forties Time penetrated further into the 
Canadian market by establishing a Canadian desk with 
a Canadian editor, leading to more Canadian news, 
then a few pages called a "section," and finally what it 
called Time Canada in 1943, printed in Chicago. It all 
began by accident, according to the late Arthur Ford, 
editor of the London Free Press, in a column he wrote 
April 1, 1967. It seems that Robert Elson, while a 
member of the staff of the Vancouver Province, a 
Southam chain paper, was seated next to Henry Luce at 
a Washington Press Club dinner, and asked him, "Why 
do you ignore Canada?" Some weeks later, Elson got a 
call from Luce asking him to become Canadian editor. 
He met Luce in New York and was offered a salary far 
beyond what he was getting from Southam's. 

Arthur Ford tells a revealing anecdote in this story of 
how Time came to Canada (or how Canada went to 
Chicago), "I met several Canadian editors of Time. I 
asked one of them if Luce ever intervened in the 
Canadian edition. He replied in the negative; he was 
given a free hand. Then he added, 'When George 
McCullagh was the owner of The Globe and Mail, and 
apparently trying to direct the political problems of 
Canada, Mr. Luce asked me to write up Mr. McCullagh 
... I wrote up a picture of George with all his warts. 
The story was turned over to Mr. Luce. He did not try 
to rewrite it or alter it, he simply killed it."' 

A new wave of concerned Canadians took up the 
issue in the Fifties and Sixties. As described by Oliver 
Clausen in The Globe Magazine of July 8, 1967, Time 
had greeted Diefenbaker's election victory in 1957 with 
enthusiasm in its best Timese style: On Dief s visit to 
Kennedy in the White House, it reported how "he 
marched up vigorously and shook hands" and "said 
firmly," et cetera. 

Time had no reason to love the Liberals in recent 
history. In 1956, Finance Minister Walter Harris 
imposed a 20 per cent surtax on its advertising revenue 
which cost Time a quarter of a million dollars. Diefen- 
baker came to the rescue when his government lifted the 
surtax two years later after much lobbying and flattery 
by Time. Clausen noted that "President Eisenhower, 
close to Henry Luce, had intervened on its behalf 
during a State visit to Ottawa. The year before Luce 
himself had visited Ottawa with his executives to 
present Dief with the original painting used for a cover 
portrait of himself, complete with large maple leaf." 

But in 1960, under pressure from Canadian 
publishers, Dief appointed a Royal Commission under 
the publisher of the Ottawa Journal, Grattan O'Leary. 
Under questioning Luce admitted that Time, despite its 
being defined in the Income Tax Act as a Canadian 

magazine, was an American magazine. At the hearings, 
some of the strongest criticisms of Time came from 
former stafi' members. Edwin Copps, a Canadian on 
Time\ New York desk until 1958, said the government 
should invoke anti-dumping duties against the 
magazine. Kenneth Johnstone, a Montreal writer who 
had worked for Time in London, said, "It is a subversive 
force coming into Canada. By allowing it to snare 
Canadian advertising, we are in fact ironically subsi- 
dizing a reactionary policy inimical to Canada's best 
interests."^ Their comments harked back to the violence 
that had been done to other journalists by Time in years 

It had also been done to various politicians. Trade 
Minister George Hees was sneered at in 1961 by Time 
for "brash assurance" that "Canada couldn't do 
business with better businessmen anywhere than in 
Cuba." As Cuba was an American enemy for having 
dared to declare independence from U.S. domination, 
Canada's stand was a red flag in Luce's nostrils. Time 
worked tirelessly for Canadian membership in the 
Organization of American States, saying this policy 
"gains Canada few friends down south." In fact, the 
opposite was true as South American governments and 
populations welcomed Canada's positive stand that did 
not always countenance blockades, cia intrigues, and 
imperialist manoeuvres, as later revealed in the 
Watergate and Senatorial hearings. Time wanted 
Canada to join the American club, gas, a league formed 
to out-vote the Latin-American republics. Time 
sneered: "For all its huge sense of commitment to the 
international life . . . Canada continued to stand aloof in 
its own hemisphere last week." The message, Oliver 
Clausen says, "was clear - break ofi" trade with Cuba 
and others on Washington's black-list."** 

Thus the "Canadian section" of Time expressed the 
U.S. point of view. To gel "Canadian" businessmen's 
views it often quoted executives of U.S. -owned subsidi- 

In 1963 it wrote of "Diefenbaker's discredited 
administration" as "he saw the writing on the Wall for 
the resurgence of the Liberal forces under Pearson. His 
self-martyrdom is wearing thin," Time said. After 
Pearson's victory, it said "an able man was off'ered a 
chance to do what he asked." The sub-heading was 
"The Air is Cleaner," and it added: "Canadians had 
fallen in line behind a miracle man in 1958, but he had 
not worked miracles." Of course Time too had fallen in 
line behind the Chief and rejected Pearson, whom it 
once called "Nehru in a Homburg." That was because 
Time disapproved of Canadian foreign policy as not in 
line with U.S. foreign policy, and tried to turn 
Canadians against their government's policies in favour 
of American imperialism. 

Although O'Leary was Diefenbaker's appointee, the 
Conservative government did nothing about the 
O'Leary report aside from pious pronouncements. 
Meanwhile Time manoeuvred well by starting to print 


the "Canada edition" in Montreal in 1962, as Reader's 
Digest was doing. When the Liberals went back into 
power in 1963. they were faced with the problem; it fell 
into the lap of Walter L. Gordon as Mnance Minister. 

Significantly, media control has been considered in a 
class like banking in Canada and unlike most other 
parts of the economy; some media fall under federal 
law requiring this control to be exercised by Canadian 
nationals. Obviously the feeling has been akin to that of 
Harold Innis. the Canadian historian who wrote of 
Western civilization as being profoundly influenced by 
communication, or in the words of Graham Spry, co- 
founder of the Canadian Broadcasting League: "Nay, 
communication is not merely an instrument, it is an 
integral and paramount element of both human 
individual and human social life. Who controls infor- 
mation, controls society."^ 

At any rate, Gordon, noting that broadcasting in 
Canada was under federal law, tried in the Spring of 
1965 to extend the principle to cover magazines. Such 
legislation was passed, but incredibly. Time and 
Reader's Digest were exempted on the basis that they 
were being printed in Canada. Gordon wrote; 

Many people were unhappy about the exemption for Time. Its 
preferred position makes the establishment of new Canadian 
magazines more difficult. The matter came up at a time when 
the automobile agreement was under heavy attack in Congress. 
Approval of the agreement might have been jeopardized if a 
serious dispute with Washington had arisen over Time. In the 
circumstances, I believe the decision to grant the exemption 
was realistic. Nevertheless, steering this part of the legislation 
through the House of Commons, and explaining the reason for 
the exemption to the Liberal Party caucus, was one of the most 
unpalatable jobs I had to do during my period in 

The power of Time in the councils of America, in the 
White House with presidents as lobbyists and in the 
business world had never been set forth so nakedly. 
Even a Canadian finance minister could not prevail 
against that power, especially when it became an object 
of international horse-trading between unequals. The 
Royal Commission Report of 1961 had recognized that 
magazines were a potentially vital instrument for the 
forging of a Canadian culture and were in danger of 
extinction; it recommended changes, the most 
important of which was to end the tax deductions for 
advertising in foreign-owned magazines. Despite all this 
effort at the top and from many professionals in the 
media field. Time got its way. Up to that point Time had 
not shaped up but was not shipped out. Time was doing 
violence to Canadian sovereignty, culture, and 
magazine economics - thus presenting an immovable 
object that blocked a seemingly irresistible force 
(Violence 7) along with its history of warmongering 
(Violence 1) and social retrogression. 

The irresistible force was expressed again in the 1970 
Report of the Special Senate Committee on the Mass 
Media, chaired by Keith Davey. The Davey Committee 
saw the magazine situation in a more significant light 

than even the O'Leary Commission, which was more 
specifically devoted to magazines. Under "The 
Troubled Magazines" it wrote: 

Magazines are special. Magazines constitute the only national 
press we possess in Canada. Magazines add a journalistic 
dimension which no other medium can provide - depth and 
wholeness and texture, plus the visual impact of graphic 
design. Magazines, because of their freedom from daily 
deadlines, can aspire to a level of excellence that is seldom 
attainable in other media. Magazines, in a different way from 
any other medium, can help foster in Canadians a sense of 
themselves. In terms of cultural survival, magazines could 
potentially be as important as railroads, airlines, national 
broadcasting networks and national hockey leagues. But 
Canadian magazines are in trouble. The industry may not be 
dying, but it is certainly not growing ..." 

It was abundantly evident by then, 1969, that cultural 
violence was being done, with Canadians buying 130.5 
million copies of American magazines a year compared 
to 33.8 million copies of Canadian magazines. In the 
vanguard was Reader's Digest, whose circulation had 
grown from approximately a million in 1969 to one and 
a half million in 1975. About half of the $34,252.1 14 
advertising revenue going to the 12 members of the 
Magazine Association of Canada by 1975 was going to 
Time and the Digest. Twenty years before it had been 
37 per cent of the revenue for 12 major magazines; back 
in 1948 the two had accounted for 18 per cent.'-^ 

The Davey Committee faced formidable "inside" 
opposition, as there had been a dramatic about-face in 
the support of Canadian magazine publishers, notably 
Maclean-Hunter. They had fought for and endorsed the 
recommendations of the O'Leary commission on 1961, 
but in 1969 they spoke up in favour of special status for 
Time and Reader's Digest. In the interval, the Magazine 
Association of Canada had been formed, which 
included both Time and the Digest plus the Maclean- 
Hunter interests, Saturday Night. Toronto Life, and 
other magazines. A writer for Books in Canada 

Having found a way to hve with the two Amencan-controUed 
giants, Canadian members of the Magazine .Association were 
understandably opposed to any further changes that might 
jeopardize their precarious stability." 

The Magazine Advertising Bureau joined the chorus for 
Time and Reader's Digest. However, the Davey 
Committee recommended repeal of their tax privileges: 

The Committee considered several options. The first was 
simply to leave the status quo alone . . . another option was to 
recommend legislation that would prevent Time and Reader's 
Digest from publishing their magazines and accepting adver- 
tising in Canada. Kick them out. Send them home. Their 
American editions would still be available in Canada, but only 
as overflow circulation. .As competitors for Canadian readers 
thev would be welcome. .As competitors for Canadian adver- 
tising dollars, they would be expelled . . . But the Committee 
rejected this option too . . . That led us to a third option, the 
one we now recommend. Not surprisingi\. it is exactly what 
O'Leary wanted nine years ago: we recommend that the 


exemption now granted Time and Reader's Digest under 
Section 12a of the Income Tax be repealed, and the sooner the 

In reference to option two, the Report showed how httle 
understanding or concern it had for the violence to 
identity done Canadians when it referred to Time and 
the Digest as "two corporations that have done business 
in Canada for nearly three decades and done it with 
flair and fairness and excellence." As we hope to have 
shown in this paper. Time and Reader's Digest have 
been markedly unfair and anything but excellent. Flair- 
ness, perhaps. 

It was possibly one clause in the Davey Report's 
comments that finally provided the government with a 
modus operandi in dealing with the issue: 

We recommend that if events warrant it, Time and Reader's 
Digest, as a condition of pubhshing their magazines in Canada, 
be required to sell 75 per cent of the stock in their Canadian 
subsidiaries to Canadian residents, and that three quarters of 
their oflficers and directors be Canadian residents.'^ 

What the Canadian government finally brought itself to 
do was to give Time and Reader's Digest in Canada the 
right to be Canadian magazines as defined by the 
Income Tax Act if they sold 75 per cent of their stock to 
Canadian residents and published a magazine that was 
80 per cent unlike any foreign magazine. That was 
actually not a requirement for Canadian content and 
got around the notion of a government controlling the 
press in any way. Reader's Digest, already 30 per cent 
Canadian-owned, decided to become Canadian in the 
Canada edition and was given some months to do so. 
What Time decided to do on its own was a free decision 
to be a truthfully American magazine without Canadian 
tax privileges. As the Davey Report pointed out: 

The other possibility is that, instead of acquiescing to the 75 
per cent requirement. Time and Reader's Digest would pick up 
their marbles and go home. That's what we think should have 
happened ten years ago. If it did happen this time around, it 
would be the companies' decision, not the government's." 

And so the Senate Committee and later the government 
avoided any suggestion that it was using a big stick, i.e. 
a form of violence, on these violence-prone magazines. 
The action was accomplished because other forces such 
as the Canadian Periodical Publishers Association for 
independent Canadian magazines became active. While 
the magazine establishment publishers had been 
brought into submission by Time and Reader's Digest 
through the Magazine Association of Canada and their 
own impercipience, the Davey Committee was also 
hearing from writers, photographers, art directors, 
editors, production people, and others working in the 
magazine field. The Report said: 

... a group of non-Magazine Adverti.sing Bureau editors and 
publishers circulated a statement calling for removal of the 
exemption, and urged media people who endorsed the 
statement to make their views known to the Committee. Some 
364 people representing 168 publications did so." 

But even as late as October, 1974, Paul Steuwe in Books 
in Canada noted: 

Whatever their deficiencies as Canadian magazines, however, 
and regardless of the fact that they are the greatest single 
obstacle to a viable national periodical press, putting an end to 
the special status of Time and Reader's Digest will still require 
some pretty massive agitation by the Canadian public. But the 
climate does seem to be right for just such an effort: the U.S. 
has been preoccupied with domestic strife and the Trudeau 
administration has just been returned with a solid majority. 
Now is the time to act decisively by removing the Time and 
Reader's Digest tax exemption, and thereby wipe clean this 
disgraceful history of perpetual equivocation and compromise. 
Cultural Sovereignty, yet!'* 

The concatenation of events was there, the effort was 
made and the result was positive. 

Time began to change character somewhat when 
Luce died in 1967 and following the famous "staff' 
revolt" at a meeting in Bermuda shortly after, it 
improved. But for its past record it must be rated as 
violent by most of our criteria. Today, it is relatively 
non-violent. The May 31, 1976, issue has articles on 
Communist party strength in Italy, but it is lacking in 
most of the jingoism of the old Luce issues, except for 
the word "seize" in relation to initiative, a slight echo of 
the old anti-Red associative wordage, and "the party 
boss," with the old-time attention to irrelevant details, 
e.g. "Sipping from a scotch and water," and "his 
chauffeur-driven nut-coloured Fiat." The slickness is 
there in a story on Ethiopia, "A land of Anarchy and 
Bloodshed," and one on Mobutu of Zaire. Both are 
fairly innocuous. A very humanistic article on "Doing 
Violence to Sport" is commendable for its enlightened 
view of hockey violence. This "Time Essay" even quotes 
the Ontario government's report on hockey violence in 
Canada. There is no great depth in this issue of Time, 
but no violence. In a few years, at this rate of progress, 
the magazine might gain some credibility. 


Chapter Eleven 
Maclean 's 

A survey of recent covers o^ Maclean's magazine leads 
to the conclusion that these are often the modem adult 
equivalent of the English Penny Horribles. Picture 
books for grown-ups. Instead of the wolf who gobbled 
up Little Red Riding Hood and grandma, the Beast of 
"Beauty and the Beast," or the Ogre who roared after 
Jack, we have in the February, March, and May, 1976, 
issues o^ Maclean s as cover pictures, the clenched fists 
of middle-class workers in revolt, the leather-jacketed 
machine gunner depicting "The Jackal" who killed and 
kidnapped Arab leaders at an opec meeting the 
previous December, and the dark shadowed figure of an 
IRA terrorist in Belfast complete with revolver aimed 
point-blank at the reader.' 

While a survey of student opinion showed majority 
dislike of these violence-depicting covers, there may 
well be some attraction in this kind of cover on the 
news-stands, and perhaps at that sales point, an 
attraction greater than non-violent covers. The buyers 
could be adults seeking the thrills and chills of 
children's "fairy tales," and so might represent a contin- 
uation of interest generated at an impressionable age. 
"Tell me a scary story," the little girl told her father. 

In the "Jackal" cover of the March 22 Maclean's we 
do not have Violence 8 - violent language and pictures 
for non-violent situations - as the death-kidnapping act 
was certainly violent, but we do have Violence 9, verisi- 
militude "revelling in the violence." This is plainly 
brought out in the editorial note on page one, the 
contents page, accompanied by small illustrations of 
two hand-guns, which reads: 

Despite the fact that he kills people, or perhaps because of it, 
IHch (for V. llich Lenin) Ramirez Sanchez, alias "Carlos," alias 
"The Jackal," has captured the popular imagination. He's 
daring, handsome, mysterious, but most of all he's 
dangerous . . .' 

The killer is obviously glamourized and glorified. The 
article itself continues the dramatization: 

The British press loves to dress its villains in nick-names, and a 
few months ago, when they needed an appropriate monicker 
for the world's most wanted man, there was . . . the main 
character of the British best-selling thriller, Frederick Forsyth's 
The Day of the JackaL and they gave it to the man who stands 

these days at the very pinnacle of world terrorism ... He has 
been scorned as the Jesse James of the Seventies in France, 
where he is wanted for murder. In Venezuela, where he was 
born, he has been compared to Simon Bolivar, the hero of the 
independence war against Spain . . . ^ 

In these passages, life imitates art and people are desen- 
sitized by confusing the two. A touch of James Bond 
also helps to serve that function, "He (The Jackal) is an 
insatiable playboy. By their own admission he had at 
least four girl friends at the same time over the past 
many months ..." Female readers are thus aff"orded an 
opportunity of identification with the global gangster 
moll of the Seventies, projecting them through the pages 
into the monster's embrace, like Beauty or the heroine 
of King Kong. In both cases the Beast is always gentle 
as fantasy usurps reality. Vicarious adventure is always 
safe and fantasy is often a nightmare in which the 
dreamer awakes from the wild night ride of the mare. 

The remainder of the March 22 issue o^ Maclean's is 
unlike the lurid, romanticized story of The Jackal. Its 
"Explore Canada '76 Tours" is particularly praise- 
worthy. Other articles, interviews and comments - 
pieces on Ed Schreyer, Bud Drury, The Sky Shops, 
world affairs, and potpourri are even-toned, reflective, 
and thoroughly Canadian. They could never have 
appeared in Time. 

The selection for our survey issue of February 9 
provided a striking contrast in cover choice. It was 
"Trudeau in Cuba" in a handshaking ceremony with 
Fidel Castro and others, a pleasant cover backed up by 
a cover story, "The Cuban Connection." that was not 
the usual jingoistic cold-war banality on Cuba found in 
the U.S. magazines. Other contents were on a par. 
except for a "Preview" heading on the Olympics. "Some 
come to run, others to kill, maim and terrorize." In the 
light of a very peaceful Olympics, the overdrawn 
heading is obviously just another attempted trigger of 
the readers' emotions. 

A heading is again the main offender in Ian 
Urquhart's article on the Conservative leadership 
convention, to be held ten days thence. "Bloody 
Sunday" is the title, and it refers to the day in 1967 


when Stanfield took over from Diefenbaker, which was 
not a major theme of the article. 

We have, therefore, in this February 9 issue, Violence 
8 - violent language for non-violent situations, sensa- 
tionalism. However, the article itself does not employ 
this purple prose. It is well to be reminded by Harry 
Bruce in that same issue of Maclean's about 

All the Muck that's fit to rake" or how "dirty rumors come true 
in the end ... the paranoid leftist editor with his fantastic 
charges about telephone taps, killers and crooks in the capital 
. . . those creeps actually turn out to have been right. That's the 
political horror of our time but politicians go on talking as 
though the real problem is a malevolent press . . . The more 
rotten the events, the more urgent the need to describe them 
right away. 

The rumours that led to the Watergate disclosures, the 
revelations on the invasion of Cambodia, on Nixon's 
other machinations, the cia in Chile and everywhere 
else, on Gerda Munsinger, on Candu sales - - all these 
were once called "sensationalism." Yet there were many 
more rumours that did not come true and many 
molehills reported in magazine "scoops" as mountains. 
The conclusion to be taken from this is that some so- 
called "sensationalism" may be just that - so-called - 
and very close to the truth; may not be an exaggeration 
at all, but in fact an underplaying of the truth. 

Maclean's cover picture of the ira terrorist (May 3 
issue) becomes an attempt to sell, a blurb, that is out of 
proportion to the contents and therefore sensationalist - 
but the cover story inside, "A little bit of hell" is 
anything but sensationalist. The words and pictures can 
never really do justice to a civil war that has lasted eight 
years and produced some of the worst horrors of the 
present age. There is no glorification in Hubert de 
Santana's article, no drama being pumped in. as there is 
no need of it. Some telescoping, perhaps, but even this is 
hard to equate with the real violence in Northern 

Here it is necessary to make a distinction between 
"drama violence" and "news violence." Many who 
deplore "violence in the media" including some media 
experts, make use of a very wide brush. But the 
manufactured violence that is fiction, whether on 
television as stereotyped drama, in the few magazines 
that publish fiction, or in tabs such as Midnight, should 
not be evaluated in the same way as news. News writers 
of integrity try to get at reality or the truth, no matter 
how mercurial, whereas fiction writers attempt to excite 
the imagination - sometimes of course for a deeper 
"truth" but seldom claiming to be reporters of fact. The 
news magazines thus, like the newspaper, must be 
evaluated differently. It can be said that violence in the 
news should not be deplored in the way we do deplore 
the violence of Kojak or of Archie Bunker. People may 
not be exposed to enough violence in their access to 
news, whereas they are over-exposed to third-rate enter- 
tainment violence. News cameras cannot capture the 
full horror of much real violence in society because they 

are seldom there when the horrors are committed as in 
the torture chambers of prisons around the world - 
from the Gulag Archipelago to Northern Ireland. Who 
would expect to see on television news or in printed 
news photos what Hubert de Santana described in the 
May 3 issue of Maclean's, "A little bit of hell"? 

In Fermanagh, one of the six counties of Northern Ireland, a 
Catholic butcher was found shot dead, impaled on meat hooks 
m his own refrigerator. He had been castrated, his testicles 
crammed into his moilth.'' 

And similar atrocities are being committed against men 
and women in Chile at this moment, to say nothing 
about the official depravities in over thirty countries of 
the world where torture is an administrative policy, as 
reported by Amnesty International.^ 

While words may be printed, pictures cannot, neither 
moving nor still. If they were used, a shuddering but 
newly aware public would cry for their removal. 
Millions of escape artists would blame the mirror for 
what it reflects, the seamy and sadistic side of life. The 
phones of news editors would be jammed with calls 
against publishing such violence in picture form, after 
which the placated caller could settle back to view the 
pleasant violence of Starskv and Hutch with perfect 
peace of mind. But the ira gun pointing at you on the 
cover is uncomfortable, too true to life, horribly 
realistic. Now you are not, in Tom Wolfe's words, "with 
the muscle, with the gun" but rather with "the rare 
occasion in which the gun is emptied into the camera - 
i.e. into your face - the effect is so startling that the 
pornography of violence all but loses its fantasy 
charm. "^ 

Yet it will depend in large part on how that violent 
news event is handled. With headlines and dramatic 
leads, "stories" that fragment the event and fail to 
provide context, and pictures poorly related to that 
context, the news becomes an imitation of drama like 
the Maclean's item on "The Jackal" and what the 
Special Senate Committee on the Mass Media called 
mere "hassle and strife" with entrapment in "conflict, 
surprise, drama ... the shooting, the rioting - and not 
enough on the quiescent but visible situations which 
could spell trouble later on."^ This comment is, 
however, related to television news and to newspaper 
news of the day, rather than newsmagazine presenta- 
tion. In the newsmagazine, there is more scope for 
documentary in-depth treatment of the news with more 
perspective and social concern. It is unfortunate, then, 
that the western world's leading newsmagazine. Time, 
along with U.S. News and World Report and, on 
occasion, Newsweek, have been warmongering 
magazines of narrow perspective. Whereas the new 
Maclean's as a newsmagazine may dramatize violence 
to sell copies, it rates only 9 on our violence scale 


Chapter Twelve 

Good Begets Good 

There has always been a school of thought that "good 
begets good," that "positive thought" has power and 
that power is to win friends and influence people 
(regardless of the end in mind). On the other side of the 
coin, bad or unwholesome or critical thinking produces 
evil. The philosophy is one that ranges from PoUyanna's 
rose-coloured glasses on the world and the reward of 
virtue to empirically tested cause and effect. In its 
origin, the idea that like image begets like image is 
shamanism and other forms of primitive psychology. In 
his trance-like state and disguise the shaman used 
gibberish and archaic words to exorcise the devil in the 
sick man. The shaman, like the Indian medicine man, 
was not regarded as the source of power and wisdom, 
but rather as a medium merely interpreting a superna- 
tural source. 

All this may be seen as superstitious nonsense today, 
but in fact the belief that words have a magical quality 
has not disappeared. There are still tabooed words and 
expressions in the most sophisticated societies, and 
people in many walks of life believe that there is a 
connection between words and things. "Speak of the 
devil and he is sure to appear," mention a person you 
dislike or fear and he is sure to arrive. Make a statement 
Hke "My car hasn't had engine trouble for two years 
now" or say to a fellow passenger in a plane, "I've never 
had a plane accident in my life," and you hastily add: 
"Knock on wood." This is the magic word of 
mythology. People are still uneasy about phrases like 
"When I die" and so as not to conjure up the spectre of 
death will deceive "Death" by saying "When I'm not 
around" or use some such ambiguity or euphemism that 
Death will not understand. 

The power of any medium to produce a response in a 
self-fulfilling way may be seen in contemporary media 
studies. It is said, however, to be a climate that produces 
a like climate in human response, rather than specific 
words. An interesting example of that thesis is provided 
by Stephen Holloway and Harvey Hornstein in their 
article "How Good News Makes Us Good" in 
Psychology Today of December 1976.' The researchers 
in 1968 constituted a team from the social psychology 
department at Columbia University's Teachers College. 

Their project started with the dropping of wallets on the 
street and the discovery that about 45 per cent of the 
finders returned them to their owners within a couple of 

They write: "Then an extraordinary thing happened. 
Not a single one of the wallets dropped on June 4 was 
returned." During the night Robert F. Kennedy was 
killed by an assassin, as the public soon learned through 
the media. "It damaged whatever social bonds had 
caused people to return those lost wallets. It demor- 
alized people and made them socially irresponsible." 

Since then, the writers have conducted extensive 
research on the effect of news broadcasts on people's 
willingness to help others. "Our findings . . . suggest not 
only that the media influence our daily moral actions 
but generally that altruism in individuals probably rises 
or falls with the altruism, or lack of it, in social events 
that may not touch us directly." Even an unimpressive 
human-interest story on radio can influence a person's 
beliefs about human nature. In one experiment news 
about a murder, bad news generally, made people 
"negative" and they thought less of their fellows than 
those who heard "good news" in the experiment. 
Behaviour could be changed; people who heard good 
news worked cooperatively in an experiment while the 
"bad news" people become more competitive. Neither 
group, of course, knew what the experiment sought. 

In another experiment, Elizabeth Lakind of 
Columbia showed that one group of women who had 
listened to good news on the radio, then read a 
summary of a legal case on a man accused of murder, 
were more hkely to find the man innocent than the "bad 
news" listeners. Interestingly enough, those in the 
experiment were hardly aware of having listened to the 
news on radio at all when asked about it after the 
experiment. There is thus an unconscious or subliminal 
aspect about the effect of news. 

Again, the researchers point up the significance of 
their findings as "Bad news breaks this social bond. It 
teaches us that other people are not like us." Bad news 
tends to de-socialize people, at least temporarily. 
Distinctions between "we" and "they" are found not to 
remain fixed and "they shift with the course of social 


events and with information about those events." 
Hornstein's recent book Cruelty and Kindness is quoted: 
"There is nothing inherent in any distinction between 
human beings that compels us to see others as they." 
That would tend to counter the believers in the 
"badness" of "human nature" as in criminals, say, to 
say nothing of the idea that human nature itself is a 
fixed entity impervious to any beneficial influences. It 
finally goes beyond "Do Unto Others" by dissolving the 
concept of "others." But the authors conclude "... 
certain news stories can demoralize and estrange us 
from one another. We believe that this finding places a 
new and heavy responsibility on the news media." 
Observations similar to these, but coming from 
another medium - music - were expressed in the 
December 25 issue of The Globe and Mail in a feature 
article by Paul McGrath, "Fan Power: giving as good as 
they get." He wrote; 

The aura you send out returns to you in your audience. The 
music you play determines the types of person you will attract 
... a musician has the power to demand an audience to think 
or black out or reach any psychological state in between . . . 
some attract people who throw sparklers, firecrackers or smoke 
bombs down onto their friends. [Rock music] speaks to 
something below the conscious level. 

Working on that level, the easiest things to exploit are sex and 
violence . . . The violence can be physical or psychological, real